And the winner is:

The PRI.  As predicted here, the PRI had a good day on Sunday in an off-year election for mayors and state-wide offices such as deputies (state representatives).

In Oaxaca city, the coalition candidate (PRD, PAN and Citizen’s) lost to the PRIista in spite of the fact that the governor belongs to Citizen’s; and the strategic cities of Juchitan, Teotitlan, and Tehuantepec were among many that went back to the PRI.  There are the usual accusations of voter fraud, vote buying, and destruction of ballots favoring the opposition.  These tactics are used by just about all political parties, and there seems to be little support for the recount that is being demanded by the losers.

[Today’s photos were taken at the Sunday market in Tlacolula. Most were taken on the street, although there is a covered Mercadito.]

A few days before the election, posters appeared all over town, saying “If you vote, the PRI will lose”.  Only 52% of eligible voters turned out, and the PRI won.  The low turnout can be attributed to three factors: the teachers and most of the left-wing ran a “don’t vote” campaign; the governor’s waning popularity; and the opposition parties – most particularly the PRD — are in total disarray.

As for the “new PRI”, it doesn’t really exist.  Aside from having hired a lot of U.S. political strategists and image makers, and putting a docile clothes horse (Pena Nieto) in the presidency of the republic, little has changed.  Carlos Salinas is still pulling the strings, and several old Salinista families are represented in Pena’s administration.

Pena Nieto is the ex-Governor of the state of Mexico, which is the power base for the “dinosaur” contingent of the PRI, and surrounds the Federal District.  Remember the scene in “The Shining” where the Jack Nicholson character batters down the door of the room where the heroine cowers?  With a crazy gleam in his eye and murder in his heart, he says “I’m

baaaaack”. That’s what it feels like now…

INAH for sale?

The director general of the National Institute for Anthropology and History, charged with the preservation of all historically significant objects, and particularly of pre-Columbian structures and artifacts, has been dismissed.  The reason given was “institutional differences”.

Misfeasance, malfeasance, incompetence, or other actionable acts were not mentioned.  As far as I can tell, he was fired for too vigorously defending “the patrimony” from encroachment by commercial interests.

I can recall, several years ago, when large banners were unfurled on the front of the Santo Domingo Cultural Center.  We the workers of INAH, they said, wish to notify the public that plans are afoot to give away our patrimony to large international corporations.  Inspired, I believe, by rumored plans to lease Chichen Itza to Pepsico – plans which were scuttled when they had the light shone on them – the protest was my first indication that such a thing was even being considered.

Archaeology is an expensive business.  One can’t simply dig up a bunch of stones, patch them back together to form a building, and leave.  There is an archaeological record to be preserved, and along with it those objects that can help to determine when, and by whom, the site was built; and when it was abandoned; and why.

Indiana Jones now needs to hire scientists with expensive equipment such as carbon daters, ultrasound mappers, paint analysts, pottery analysts, archivists, and others.  The money to pay them comes from the coffers of INAH.  Admission fees alone are not enough to pay it back; in most cases fees are not sufficient to cover maintenance.  INAH is on a budget, with almost all the money being doled out by the federal government, and there are ever more archaeologists wanting to explore ever more newly discovered sites.  The pressure to develop new funding sources is enormous.

Some of the most significant ruins are located in or just outside existing population centers, where land is not easy to come by, and costs the Earth to buy.  Just like where you live, an offer by a big corporation to build a new office building or big-box store, thus increasing the tax – and employment – base, is hard for officials to resist.  Since the offer is all too often accompanied with a large bribe, permission is even more likely to be granted, even if – as in the case of Walmart’s new store near the ruins at Teotihuacan – there is substantial citizen resistance.

Then there is the question of how many sites is enough; and how much tourist-forming they should undergo: for instance, the coffee shop at Monte Alban was recently reduced in size, to accommodate a gift shop expansion, and while that seems on the surface to be a zero-sum tradeoff of commercial space, one result is that the magnificent view of the Oaxaca valley from the patio ouside the coffee shop has been reduced.

Resource allocation is always an issue:  Should money be spent to dig in some of the hundreds of known sites, or to build a new and expensive road that will connect Monte Alban to the ruins outside Atzompa, making it easier for tour buses to go quickly from one to the other?  Preservation vs. development…

Eating Ethnic:

Every once in a while, there’s a day when Diana doesn’t want to cook,  and Oaxaca tipico (traditional local cooking) just won’t do it.  Fortunately for us, a number of new restaurants featuring foreign cuisine have come to town.

Mini Taj, in Colonia Reforma, recently joined the Greek, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Brazilian, Argentinian and Moroccan  bistros that are available.  Mostly they are on the upper end for cost, and at least remindful of what a dish tasted like when we ate it in the old country; and sometimes surprisingly good.

Meanwhile, the downtown Pizza Rustica has abandoned its second floor premises…


**IOHIO, better known as the Institute of Historic Oaxacan Organs,  has just issued its fifth cd of music played on the organs they helped to restore.  If you want to buy a copy, or donate to the cause, just click here

**The New Times website recently featured an article about the contradiction between the large U.S. farmers’ need for seasonal labor and the increasingly successful attempt by the U.S. government to choke off the supply of that labor at the Rio Grande / Rio Bravo border. To read the article, click here

** Dawn Paley on the nexus between NAFTA, GMO crops, and the growing incidence of Diabetes in Mexico. Very nicely put together. You can read it by clicking here

**Dennis Bernstein is an anthropologist who wanted to know more about illegal migration from Mexico to the U.S: how is it arranged, what are the dangers, etc.  To find out, he spent several seasons traveling with them, picking crops with them, and being very up-front about what he was up to, before he was trusted enough to join a border-crossing group. It’s a very ineresting tale.