CYBERCAFE OPENS IN OAXACA:

Milenio, a full-service internet and electronics service, opened its doors this month at 412 Cinco de Mayo, across the courtyard from Cafe Gekko. With Gekko providing the refreshments, Millenium concentrates on the “cyber”.

Aside from a couple of PC’s and a Mac, they have a fully computerized scanner / photo manipulation capability, scanner, etc, as well as a large set of games, graphics and desktop publishing programs on c.d.

While they are not the first (Nuestra Tierra on Morelos is), they are the glitziest and the most pleasantly located; and the provender at Gekko is always first rate.

Some of the larger copy shops are now offering internet hookups, as well. The electronic age appears to have arrived.

HAPPY DEAD DAY:

Dia de los Muertos has arrived. Our altar is up, and the round of parties has started. Last night (the 30th), the two foremost galleries in town pulled out the jams: at Arte de Oaxaca, master artist Rodolfo Morales had liveried waiters circulating with 10 different kinds of canapes and endless glasses of Donaji (Doe-na-HEE), named for an ancient Zapotec princess, and consisting of orange juice, grenadine and mezcal. At La Mano Magica, Mary Jane and Arnulfo Mendoza served only beer and straight mezcal, and no canapes, but as usual the works on display were exquisite. Theirs has to be the finest collection of Muertos art anywhere.

Tonight, we are going to a friend’s for tamales and chocolate, and tomorrow night friend / photographer Russell Ellison is opening his taller (workshop) for a Muertos show. Somewhere in between, we hope to make it to Xoxocotlan for the display of sand sculptures in the church plaza (the cemetary itself already has busfulls of tourists decending on it, and doesn’t need us).

ANOTHER POLITICAL ARTICLE:

A couple of you have asked for less politics and more travel-related material. Some of you seem to enjoy the political stuff. I am interested in writing what people want to read. I’d like to hear from you on this issue. Meanwhile, here is a reprint of something I sent out to newspapers earlier this month…

President Clinton has proposed, and Congress appears disposed to grant, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) be given an additional 100 inspectors, some or all of whom would be sent to farm fields and packing houses in Mexico and Guatemala to assure that our “high standards” of cleanliness and pesticide reduction are being met. Presumably, any farm or facility which failed to meet these standards would be barred from exporting to the U.S.

Aside from the fact that Mexico, for one, has not agreed to such violation of its national sovereignty and is not likely to, there are plenty of good reasons why this scheme should be nipped in its bureaucratic and political bud.

Mexican avacados and tomatoes are simply a better deal than their U.S. counterparts. You don’t need to take my word for it: it’s in the Congressional Record, uttered by a congressman from Florida. U.S. agribusiness interests have been trying to keep them out — with some success — for years. This is yet another thinly veiled plot by the same special interests to make it more expensive for Mexicans to ship to the U.S., thus protecting the profits of higher-cost U.S. producers and distributors. Everyone in the business knows it, and it’s time that Clinton told the truth.

The line on this one is that Mexican fields are unsanitary, and that too much DDT is used. What is not mentioned is that the packing plants and distributors in the U.S. are required to clean domestic produce, and should be expected to do likewise for imports; and that the DDT is being dumped by U.S. chemical companies, with the approval — and financial support — of the U.S. government, on third world countries such as Mexico and her neighbors. So if we don’t want it used on the tomatoes we eat, we can just stop selling it to our neighbors.

The uproar over the Latin Produce Menace is itself a product of a Big Lie (remember Goebbels the Nazi chief of propaganda, who proved that if you tell the same untruth long enough, it will become accepted as accurate?). The mainline press and the agriculture interests that advertise in them have been pushing this one for years. An example of how this works is last year’s scare over Mexican strawberries.

A packing plant in California sold frozen strawberries to school lunch programs. The strawberries were contaminated. Schoolchildren were poisoned. The hue and cry went out: stop importing Mexican strawberries. It was very effective. The problem was that the strawberries were fine, until they got to the frozen food plant in California, where they were contaminated. Even after this was known, the media continued to imply that the menace was Mexico.

It seems to me that we ought to straighten out our own mess before we point our fingers at others’. Put those inspectors in U.S. facilities where poor working conditions, long hours, low pay and unwillingness to pay the extra cost of correcting bad processing have, just in recent months, allowed millions of pounds of e-coli infected hamburger into U.S. supermarkets, fast food outlets, and school lunch programs.

Pretending that all our problems come from outside our borders, whether it be strawberries or drugs or imported cheap labor, does nothing to solve them. It just lets our own cheats and liars off the hook, and allows Bill Clinton to strike poses while lining his pockets with soft money from “agricultural interests”. Tell your congresspersons that inspection, like charity, ought to begin at home.