CARNIVAL IS SOON UPON US:

Carnival, the lenten holiday that marks the beginning of the runup to Semana Sancta (Easter Sunday) is early this year: Monday, February 8. Throughout Latin America, the parades, dances and general hard partying of Carnival are among the most spectacular of the year.

In Mexico, the most famous and well attended of these revelries takes place in Vera Cruz, on the gulf coast, and in Juchitan in the isthmus of Tehuantepec, state of Oaxaca. However, there are many other locales where the stops are pulled out and the wild and the bizarre emerge. This year, we are journying to Pinotepa de Don Luis, a small town in the northwest corner of Oaxaca state, both because we hear they make a big deal of Carnival (Oaxaca city does not), and because we have never been there.

There have been reports of civil unrest in the Pinotepa area, but we don’t feel endangered for several reasons, starting with our status as foreign tourists and ending with everyone’s love of fiesta. Expect a full report in a month.

FOREIGN NEWSWRITERS CRITICISED BY PRESIDENT ZEDILLO:

In a major address to the Mexican legislature last week, El Presidente reported the nearly complete recovery of the Mexican economy and the continued march of the nation toward true democracy and universal participation in free and honest elections. However, he noted, there are certain obstacles, among which are certain corrupt officials who will be rooted out and punished, irresponsible opposition leaders who falsify the truth for political gain, and foreign reporters who exaggerate the bad news and ignore the good news.

Of course, Ernesto averred, reporters focus on bad news in order to sell newspapers, since people would rather read bad news than good (an idea I find interesting, since it implies that people are more turned on by tragedy and calumny than by tales of good deeds and success, which if true explains why we elected Tricky Dickie over McGovern).

Furthermore, we were told, foreign journalists are the witting or unwitting victims of a cabal of Mexican intellectuals who wine and dine them in their fancy villas in Cuernavaca and other posh watering holes and fill them full of treasonous nonsense which they then repeat as fact. While these nattering nabobs of privilege are not named, the ranks of rich intellectuals in Mexico are hardly legion.

Being a foreigner writing in Mexico, I react to this speech with both worry and jealousy. On the one hand, I wonder which of us will be next on the list of people to be harassed, arrested, tortured, or disappeared. On the other, I am insulted that those haughty privileged intellectual snobs haven’t invited me for one of their lavish free dinners.

MINNESOTA HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DRAWS FIRE FROM GOVERNOR OF OAXACA:

Last month, the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights issued a blistering report on the state of human rights in Oaxaca. In seventy-five pages of fact and analysis, it concluded that Oaxaca is the most abusive of human rights of any state in Mexico.

Governor Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano publicly denounced this report as biased, untrue, unfair and scurrilous, and warned that those who come to Oaxaca to foment trouble may find themselves answering to the people for their crimes against the tranquility and good name of Oaxaca.

The Advocates replied that the report reflected the truth as they were told it by the people involved, and stood behind it. Furthermore, they said, they were not about to be deterred by threats, from carrying out their duty as they see it.

EX MILITARY BRASS RESIGN FROM PRI:

On Monday, eleven retired army and navy officers of high rank, including one woman, resigned from the PRI and joined the PRD. They gave as their reason the “destruction of the country’s institutions”, a statement that I take to refer to the increasing militarization of Mexico. PRD leaders issued a statement saying that these new recruits would form a “commission…to encourage support for [PRD] within the military”. The possibility of running retired military for deputies and governors is “not ruled out”, according to the statement.

Traditionally, the PRI has been the home of the military. This defection is a serious psychological blow to the PRI, adding to the defection of PRI deputies and party officials from the ranks of the ruling party.

OAXACA BACK TO NORMAL:

After over two weeks of pre-christmas and post-christmas merchandising, the temporary booths that jammed the streets leading into the zocalo have been dismantled, and the streets are once again open to auto traffic and pedestrians. The portales (sidewalk cafes) are no longer jammed with chilangos (folks from MExCity), and the mariachis, marimba bands and accordian-weilding children no longer have to compete with the high-volume speakers blaring bad rock and roll from the booths selling pirated audio tapes. For this time between calendas (church-sponsored candle-light parades), fireworks and festivities, we give much thanks as we rebuild our strength and tolerance for noise in anticipation of the next round of exciting fiesta activity.