IT PAYS TO BE SENILE:

In Mexico, I am a certified old geezer. So is Diana. In Mexico, being old pays off in reduced air fares, half-price inter-city bus fares, and free admission to museums and archeological sites. All you need is your senility card.

If you are a resident (migratory status fm-1, -2 or -3), as opposed to a tourist, and have managed through good planning or good luck to reach your 60th birthday, then you qualify.

Old age cards are issued by the Instituto Nacional de la Senectud (INSEN), upon arrival at the INSEN office with your passport, your residence papers, a rent receipt, and three “infantil” (smaller than passport size) photos. The whole process is done right there. In with your materials, out with a laminated photo i.d. If you don’t want the discounts, the card is free. If you want the full boat, the fee is 10 pesos. Since the Regional Museum is charging 20 pesos admission without a card, and no admission with one, you can see that the discount card pays for itself in a hurry. But there is even more:

In each city of issue, there are restaurants, artesanias and other businesses that give a discount if you show them your card. In Oaxaca, the Bar Jardin gives 20%!

It is worth having a card, just for the logo: a decrepit old person in ceremonial Aztec clothing, hobbling along with the aid of a cane. Eat your heart out, AARP!

REGIONAL MUSEUM IS OPEN:

After over 2 years, the Regional Museum next to Santo Domingo Church opened its’ gates in August amid mucho fanfare and a visit from El Presidente Zedillo to cut the ribbon. While the rest of the complex is still under restoration, the museum itself is more or less complete, and it is a truly world class space. Now two stories high and more completely invested with the collection than at any time in its past, it is not only grand, but also tiring. Best to give it a couple of sessions.

This month’s MexConnect article is a feature on the Museum. Give it a look at www.mexconncect.com

JEFFREY DAVIDOW ARRIVED IN MEXICO

to take over his duties as Ambassador in August, and promptly displayed some good old American know-not-how. While his (presumed) bosses at the State Department were issuing ominous warnings to our fellow citizens about the dangers of traveling in Mexico, his excellency was telling a Mexican Chamber of Commerce dinner that MexCity is a wonderful and safe place to travel. Meanwhile, the 223rd bank robbery of the year was being committed (and it looks likely that a new record will be set this year), another gringo was stabbed to death, and the ex-chief of the prison bureau of MexCity was arrested for stealing funds and accepting bribes from prisoners.

The heck of it is, by all statistics it is indeed safer in Mexico City than in Philadelphia. The difference is that in Philadelphia, someone who has moved there from Iowa is still an American, whereas in Mexico he/she is a gringo (and for some elements, a target).

In response to growing criticisms from his own supporters as well as the opposition, Cuautehmoc Cardenas, the erstwhile governor of MexCity, did the expected thing: he changed police chiefs this last week. Will the new chief fare any better? Probably not. Has he a new strategy? Oh, yes, he will give individual neighborhoods more autonomy, decentralizing the police force command. In other words, in neighborhoods like Ixtapalapa, where the police are notoriously linked to the crooks (and often one and the same), he will remove all oversight and command. Huh?

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: OPERA COMES TO THE OAXACA OPERA HOUSE:

The Macedonia Alcala Theater, a classical four-tier horseshoe opera house, finally hosted an opera on August 23. There had been a live feed from the Belles Artes in Mexico City a couple of years ago, but the performance of Puccini’s La Boheme this past month representedthe first time that Oaxacans got to enjoy live opera at their opera house. Our gang agreed that it was not La Scala or the Met, but that if the same troupe had been putting on a different opera the next night, we all would have gone again.

TRANSITIONS:

Grace Bishko, our neighbor and one of the few gringo artists whose paintings sell well to the local folks, has moved on. She will be making her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I must correct a rumor that turned out to be untrue: Garrik and Pamela of the PE language school have NOT split up, he is back from CA. Sorry, just another case of “reliable source” being less than…

CONSULTA OVERWHELMINGLY REJECTS FOBAPROA:

The government’s scheme for laying off the billions stolen by the bankers and their cronies on to the backs of the people was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a “national poll” taken on Sunday. Over three million people all over Mexico voted, and 95% of them said “Basta! Ya!”. Run by the PRD as much as a propaganda coup as a serious attempt to sample public opinion, the poll nonetheless increases the pressure on the Zedillo government to make the beneficiaries of the banking scandal pay the cost — which of course they cannot do in any meaningful way, since they depend on the big thieves to be the big contributors to PRI campaigns.

The PRI’s spin doctors are of course attacking this poll as meaningless at best, and a dastardly plot at worst, and in any case of no consequence since national policy is, by constitution, set in the Legislature; while the PRD’s muck-a-mucks are calling it a clear mandate from the people (at 3 out of 95 million?).

THE PESO IS STILL DROPPING, AND NO END IN SIGHT:

Having reached the “magic barrier” of ten pesos to the dollar and still floundering, the peso is rapidly approaching endangered species status. Having tried unsuccessfully to intervene by auctioning off a couple of hundred million dollars in foreign exchange on at least three occasions in the last two weeks, the central bank has little choice but to let the peso float. Since the Bolsa de Valores, Mexico’s stock market, has also been in a downward spiral, and since everyone is petrified at the likely prospect of Venezuela crashing (oil prices), it doesn’t appear there will be any significant upward corrections any time soon. Today’s Fourth Informe (an informe is a state of the union speech) by El Presidente will likely be full of empty promises and emptier reassurances along with hints of austerity measures to come. The truth is, Mexico is reaping the whirlwind of the transglobalization of its economy by the neo-liberal forces led, at present, by Zedillo himself. Completely plugged in to the world economy — having sold off much of its infrastructure — and borrowed up to its national eyeballs against a sinking collateral (oil), there is little he can do to turn it around, even if he wants to, and it is not clear that he has much ganas (will) to buck the transglobal corporations and banks.

Today, the Treasury announced the suspension of trading in new CETEs. The CETE is a short-term bond much like the Treasury Bills sold in the U.S. The most popular CETE is a 30-day note. The decision to halt the auction today was taken to hold the interest rate, which had gone to 35%. High interest rates depress credit purchases, which in turn affects the sale of domestic goods. The last time that the CETE auction was stopped was in 1994, just before the peso crashed.