Some things never change:

The classic definition of an obsessive-compulsive is a person who repeats the same unsuccessful behavior over and over hoping that it will work this time or that mere repetition will bestow good fortune. If you or I observed someone exhibiting this kind of self-defeating behavior, we might well suggest a therapist, a cold shower, or a dose of LSD: something to shock them out of the treadmill of hopelessness and self-punishment they have devised for themselves.

Here is an example of sick, obsessive behavior with which I am familiar: This guy has a house on a small plot of land, and when he first got it, it was in a small town with only a few neighbors. No-one had any fences, and everyone freely crossed each other’s property. Unfortunately, from his viewpoint, it was near a large city, and as the city ran out of room its inhabitants began to buy land in his town. He began to feel that too many people were crossing his property, so he put up a “do not walk on the grass” sign. As time went on, more people came to town, and inevitably there were some that ignored the sign. He put up a picket fence. At first just a few, and later more people jumped the fence. He put up a six-foot chain link fence. Kids climbed it. He put barbed wire at the top. His new neighbors started to get pissed off, and cut the fence. He got dogs, and they poisoned them. He ended up sitting in his living room window with a shotgun, unhappy and bitter. He didn’t have time to enjoy his property because he was too busy defending it. Meanwhile, his neighbors were all enjoying their neighborhood and each other.

You know this guy, too. He is Eurocentric America, the good old U.S. of A. And if he has any friends left out there, it’s time for them to tell him that he appears to be out of his mind. Like most whackos, the US is no longer functioning in the real world, and the harm it is doing to the rest of the world’s peoples contributes to the harm it is inflicting on itself.

Once again, a stroll down the Alcala (Macedonio Alcala’, the Andador / walking street) is rewarded by a whimsical work of art displayed near the modern art museum

In every year of the last ten, the law enforcement industry (one of the fastest growing industries in a country which already imprisons a higher proportion of it’s citizens than any other on Earth) has garnered more money, more personnel, more prosecutors, more jail cells, more and stiffer penalties for convicted lawbreakers, more exceptions to our Constitutional guarantees of due process, and more addicts. More people are coming into our country illegally, and fewer are bothering to become legal when it is available.

On July 7, 1996, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled “Smugglers Own The Border, Ranchers Say”. Concentrating on the area around Eagle Pass, Texas, the article details how smugglers — Yankee and Latino (don’t forget, plenty of our paisanos are in this business too) — have come to control the Rio Grande valley in this area. The system is simple. First, they just cross people’s land without permission. If confronted, they offer money for permission. If refused, they try to buy the rancher out. If rebuffed, they threaten. If ignored, they carry out their threats. Eventually, the ranchers either cave in or move away. Money — and brute force — talks.

Our happy home last week. Nice light, eh?

What are the results of all our draconian, punitive laws, our beefed up border patrols, our insertion of the US army into the situation? Fifteen years ago, it was officially estimated that only 10% of all drug traffic into the US was caught. A border patrol official interviewed in the Times article put the current figure at 5%. In other words, not only has the volume gone up, but the percentage stopped has gone down. Does this sound like the results of a correct approach to you?

The latest wrinkle is one-stop smuggling: the person on whose back the bale of marijuana is entering the country is an illegal, who paid the smuggler for the privilege of carrying it. Who says those Mexicans don’t understand efficiency?

As any Mexican and any Yankee who crosses regularly will tell you, in this post-NAFTA era, borders have outlived their usefulness. They can’t keep out “the enemy”, therefore they often end up hassling innocent people.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena, in his book, “The New World Border” (City Lights Publishers, (1991) $16.95 soft cover), says: “It is time to face the facts: Anglos won’t go back to Europe, and Mexicans and Latinos (legal or illegal) won’t go back to Latin America. We are all here to stay. For better or worse, our destinies are in one another’s hands…Hybridity is no longer up for discussion. It is a demographic, racial, social and cultural fact.

“…rather than more border patrols, border walls, and punitive laws, we need more and better information about one another…We need to educate our children and teenagers about the complexities of living in a multiracial, BORDERLESS [my emphasis] society — the inevitable society of the future.”

NOTE: This article was written in 2001 – 13 long years ago. Today, in 2014, all the bad predictions have come true, some even worse than foretold; and a new wrinkle has been added: clever smuggles in Central America are drumming up business by specializing in women and children. Latest count in the detention facilities includes over 55 THOUSAND minors. The “coyotes” get them to make the journey by lying to them: they are told that mothers with children (or solo minors), once across the border, will not be sent back.

When they surrender to ICE, instead of being united with family members already in the U.S., they are being “housed” in ever more crowded inadequate facilities run by for-profit corporations. When will we ever learn?

Postscript: According to today’s paper, there are currently 4,500 children and adolescents with U.S. citizenship in the state of Oaxaca, who have “voluntarily” come “home” to join their deported parents. Many of them do not speak.Spanish, and have never been to Mexico. Many of them are being housed in facilities in the town of Zimatlan, waiting to be reunited with family members, or returned to their country of origin….

A few years ago, the Pochote organic market split in two. One, known as Pochimilco, is held on Friday and Saturday on the plaza of the church in Xochimilco. The other, less known, has been operating 7 days a week on Rayon street south and east of the Zocalo. It’s closer to us. Good breakfasts and lunches..

R.I.P. Don Chencho:

Sadly, we announce the passing of Inocencio (“Chencho”) Velasco in late May. I first met him when I arrived in Oaxaca in February of 1994.

I had gone to the office of Consular Agent Mark Leyes to ask him for recommendations for a language school and a place to stay. Mark sent me to the Centro de Idiomas (language school) of the local university (The Autonomous University of the state of Oaxaca: UABJO), and to Casa Colonial, a bed and breakfast. UABJO was exactly what I was looking for, but “the Casa”, while beautiful and comfortable, turned out to be far more expensive than I had hoped.

Seeing the expression on my face when he announced the rates, Victor Velasco, the major domo, told me that his dad, Inocencio, had a much less expensive b&b on the other side of town.

This small section of the 20 November market is overflowing with bread and sweet rolls. Anyone who is at all adventurous and loves food should check out its array of stuff, especially the cheeses, pastes; grills that will prepare anything you choose; and the small restaurants that specialize in traditional Oaxacan dishes – all at incredibly low prices.

When I got to Posada de Chencho, this little gnome of a man showed me around, and sat me down for a friendly negotiation – in English. We ended up making a deal for a one-week stay: plenty of time to find somewhere else cheaper to live.

Next day, I started taking classes, and from that moment on, Chencho refused to speak English with me. I credit that with having been an essential step in my quest for Spanish proficiency – a quest which consumes me still. Sweet, solicitous, business-like and endowed with an encyclopedic knowledge of Oaxaca; and a racconteur with stories of his adventures on both sides of the border, Chencho was the perfect person with whom to spend the first week of my 20-plus years in Oaxaca.

Chencho’s many loyal guests/friends will miss him. When people call me “Mr. Oaxaca”, my response is “not compared to Don Chencho”.

More on oil privatization:

Last Newsletter, I recommended an essay by Bill Stone about the ongoing fight over the proposed privatization of PEMEX. Since then, I have read another analysis, by the brilliant, oft-quoted Laura Carlson. If you would like to read it, just click here.

Today, the Senate passed the first of four major changes in the hydrocarbon law, needed to implement the new “Energy Reform” law. The process will no doubt be rancorous, but it appears that the PRI / PAN alliance will have its way, as it did today…

Guelaguetza approaches:

On the 21st and 28th of this month, Oaxaca’s greatest tourist spectacles will take place in the stadium on top of the Fortin hill. These two Lunes del Cerro (Mondays of the hill), are preceded by parades and performances of the Legend of Donají, and supplemented by festivals of Mezcál and gourmet dining. The town will be jumping, but not everyone will be headed in the same direction.

As has been true every year since the great uprising of 2006, the teachers’ union, the faculty and students from the “normal schools”, the “radical anarchist” defacers of property and the various interrupters of traffic, as well as the non-political opportunists flooding the environs of the Zocalo with booths and blankets selling Chinese knockoffs will do their best to spoil the festivities in their zeal to prove that Oaxaca is ungovernable, as perhaps it is.

In spite of all the disruptions and vandalism, Oaxacans will flood the stadium as they always have (the vast majority of seats are free) while the tourists occupy the lower section at about $35 per seat.

This banner hangs from the teachers’ union building and advertises the “other” Guelaguetza.

This year, as it has since 2006, there will be a “people’s Guelaguetza” in the stadium at the technical college. Festivities will take place as well in Zaachila, San Antonino, and other exurban locations. They will be free to everyone.

Taken as it is, not as one might like it to be, with a sense of humor and flexible goals, Oaxaca should provide a fine if contradictory show.

Rare Earth, indeed…

Mexico has announced the awarding of millions of dollars to Grupo Mexico for exploration of a very large deposit of very high grade rare earth in Oaxaca. There are many rare metals in rare earth ore. Mostly they are used for high-tech applications. Mining rare earth is simple and cheap, as is smelting, a process that produces pure ore by washing with hydrochloric acid.

According to Kadela Capital Group, the pollution has just begins there. Rare Earth has no profitable application. It is the metals within Rare Earth that have value, and each and every one of them requires a separate chemical / electrical process to create. Some are themselves dividable, thereby creating two useful metals. The whole business is incredibly poisonous – but very profitable. As of now, China produces almost all the rare earth metals, and Mexico hopes to someday own as much as 10% of the trade.

Judging from the experience of local farmers and ranchers in the recent past – inevitable indigenous resistance to the gold and silver miners – any attempt to stop this project will fail, and the resulting pollution and relocations will not be pretty.

The plaza in the San Pablo Cultural Center is a musical venue on most Sundays at noon. This “youth band” from the Mixteca was surprisingly good. Notice the young woman on the far left, playing the trumpet, an instrument usually reserved for the young men…


**Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s social organization MORENA took another step towards recognition as a political party yesterday, as PRD, PT (workers’ party) and Citizen’s party all pledged to come on board for the purpose of running candidates for public office.

**Reports from the Guerrero capitol of Chilpancingo say that the state University, located there