Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Poor Mexico, so far from God....





Being the eternal oddball that I am the perpetually unlucky nation of Mexico has always held a certain fascination for me. The blame probably rests with any number of Jimmy Buffett songs and old movies making Mexico in my mind an exotic land of adventure and mystery.

When Jimmy, or any of his tropical rock-singing buddies, croons about the country south of the Rio Grande, I think of ocean breezes, beautiful senoritas, and easy living. Given my early onset curmudgeon-like behavior and my growing nausea at anything to do with American culture and politics that alone is enough for me to idle away even more hours dreaming about permanently flying south like some pissed off goose desperately seeking a tequila drenched Margaritaville.

The old movies that influenced me generally portrayed Mexico as a refuge for heroic losers running from bad memories, lovers, or crimes they may or may not have committed. The movie I remember best setting that mood ended with Humphrey Bogart in a white linen suit standing by a balcony overlooking a Mexican beach waiting for the beautiful Lauren Bacall. The two had spent the greater part of the movie set in late 1940’s Los Angeles trying to figure out what Bogart’s amnesia suffering character had done to draw the ire of the local mafia and cops. I only saw that movie once but the closing scene made such an impression that I often imagine myself as a Bogart-like character sitting in some Mexican bar overlooking a tropical beach awaiting a gorgeous woman whenever I need to tuned out the whining of someone bitching about how unfair the universe is to him or her.

Despite these romantic notions idiots like me cling to, Mexico is a country that even in its early years seemed cursed in many ways.  One of my college history professors put it best about Mexico’s misfortune, “Poor Mexico,” he would say with a theatrical air, “so far from God and so close to the United States.” For the 19th century and at least a third of the 20th, our fine neighbors to the north the Canucks had the benefit of the British Empire blunting the worst of American imperial dreams of a true continental Manifest Destiny. Poor Mexico with no powerful protector got close to half of its area sliced off and incorporated into the United States and was damn lucky not to be totally carved up like Poland found itself in the late 18th century.

Adding insult to injury, White Anglo-Saxon Americans have always looked down upon anyone they considered not to their standards and proper ethnic breeding. Over the centuries, this promoted a very high level of American meddling and outright domination of the entire Latin American world. This created enough bad feeling that ultimately the United States had to deal with the likes of Fidel Castro coming to power in Cuba and inviting the Russians to grow a garden of nuclear tipped missiles on their soil. That brouhaha almost toasted the entire planet in a multi-megaton nuclear fire complete with a radioactive fallout icing.

At least we Americans were gracious enough to allow our Mexican neighbors to cross the border and work in the broiling sun picking our vegetables and fruits, clean our nasty toilets, and take care of rich Anglos children allowing them plenty of free time for the country club. Despite the widespread use of this cheap and dependable source of labor padding the pockets of many who would otherwise have to shell out huge bucks paying for American labor we have not always treated these people kindly.

I believe this has largely to do with the fact that we do not want them to stay in this country, if they do it might upset the delicate balance with it getting so bad that daughters might come home to introduce some “Juan” or “Miguel” to daddy while explaining about the growing bulge in her belly.

Well, in the fine tradition of reaping what you sow the United States has once again created a situation that is well on its way to blowing up on our doorstep. And wonder of wonders, those nasty Muslim terrorists that many Morlock-Americans are convinced are out to impose Sharia law on us good Christian folks have nothing to do with it at all.

It all starts with a population here in American that loves to get high on illegal substances, now do not get all defensive or high and mighty, this crosses all ethnic and race lines here in the Unites States, in short we are the proverbial demand. After that throw in the nation of Colombia, which exports drugs like China ships out electronics and you have a supply anxiously wanting to meet the waiting demand up north.

In the middle, you have Mexico who is now embroiled in a horrific war trying to stop the flow of drugs to the land of the free and the home of the brave. All they are seeing for their efforts to stem the tide is an Afghanistan-like breakdown in society with many government officials dropping everything and running away in hopes of saving the lives of their families and themselves.

Of course, this war is going largely unnoticed here in the United States. Hell, we spend damn little time paying attention to our own ongoing imperial adventures in southwest Asia. We have two-hundred satellite television channels available here with a wide array of shows devoted to the latest in narcissistic celebrity escapades, groveling political pundits, and any sport under the sun. What is it to us that some banana republic is undergoing yet another civil war?

Thank you for asking because I am here to answer that trillion-dollar question.

At one point early in this war, largely inspired to pass the American drug problems on to someone else, it was concentrated in the northern Mexican states along the border with the United States. This has allowed many gringos to sit back and go tisk tisk and push even harder to “build the dang fence” like McCain grumpily complained in his frantic bid to be reelected back in 2010.

Now the violence has begun to spread rapidly throughout the rest of Mexico. For the American assholes who think the world is their private playground and for those for whom Profit is the one true god this chaos will put a big crimp in their vacation plans and cut into the corporate bottom line. Since I consider myself to possess some small fragment of a conscious I get sick to my stomach knowing innocent people are dying and suffering because Americans cannot pull their collective heads out their asses and come up with a more effective way to combat substance abuse. But then again it all goes back to having a relatively informed American public and at least a semi-competent United States government. However, the former is laughable and the latter is something from the realm of extreme science fiction bordering on fantasy.

Since Americans like to live under a cloud of fear and threat there is one avenue I can think of that might goad them into action, if the drug-related violence continues to spread and grow it will ultimately push a wave of refuges northward across the border. The good gringos, ever worried about their tax dollars, will be forced to live up to their supposed Christian credo. They might even have to raise taxes a little cutting into their golf club budget.

Few Americans are even vaguely aware that in Mexico’s last presidential election they came very close to electing their own version of Hugo Chavez. The American backed guy, Felipe Calderon, was able, somehow, to snatch victory from the jaws of electoral defeat but many Mexicans openly questioned his legitimacy. Now I know as sure as God makes little green apples the fair and just United States government would never interfere with another country’s elections but living under a real state of daily terror Mexicans might not want to keep Uncle Sammy satisfied by putting his man in office next time.

God save us from the hysteria that would erupt here in United States if Mexico elected a certified commie unfriendly to American corporate interests, Given the current mindset that may leave our government no choice but to invade and spread "real" democracy again. However, before America goes and does something seriously stupid again, in my humble opinion it would be better for us gringos to rethink our attitudes and policies concerning our fellow North Americans before we have an Afghanistan just on the other side of our southern border.

Enough of my insane rambling, Fred Reed, an American expat living in Mexico has the real scoop on what is going on:

Fred On Everything: Scurrilous Commentary by Fred Reed

An Intrusion of Reality

Never a Good Thing

Things change, usually for the worse, and always against the innocent. (This truth is a principle of curmudgeonry.) When I came to Mexico some eight years ago, it was a peaceful, moderately successful upper-Third-World country—middle-class, barely, literate, though often barely, and as democratic as the United States, which is to say barely. Things were improving, though often they had a long way to go. The young were visibly healthier than preceding generations. The birth rate was in sharp decline. Women entered the professions in substantial and growing numbers. 

And it was safe. Expats sat over coffee at the plaza laughing at people back in the States, insular, fearful, ignorant of the world outside their borders. (For recent college graduates, Mexico is a country south of the United States. “South” is down on maps.) Mexico, they believed, was most astonishing perilous. Don't drink the water, avoid ice. Salads were thought especially lethal. The Federales would kill you for sport, like squirrels. On any given day, you would probably be shot several times by bandidos. It was nonsense. 


Then Vicente Fox left office, and Felipe Calderon came in. He declared war on the narcotraficantes. Why he did this, I don't know, since Mexico didn't have a drug problem. My guess is that Washington pushed him into it, but I don't know.

Unfortunately Mexico, which neither produces nor uses a lot of drugs, lies between Colombia, which produces vast amounts of drugs, and Americans, who want vast amounts of drugs. Washington does not want Americans to have vast amounts of drugs. Neither did it want to lose votes by imprisoning white users of drugs, such as college students, high-school students, professors, Congressmen, lawyers, and blue-collar guys driving bulldozers. The answer was to make Mexico fight Washington's wars. 

But Mexico couldn't fight the narcos, because the United States was actually on the side of the traficantes. Does this sound counter-intuitive? What happened was that the narcos gave the Americans the huge quantites of drugs they wanted, and in return Americans gave the narcos huge amounts of money and military-grade weaponry: chiefly AKs, but also grenades and the occasional RPG. The Mexican police, lightly armed, barely paid, and utterly corrupt, could do nothing against these odds. The narcos had a further argument: Do what we say, and we will give you money. Otherwise, we will kill your family.
You figure it out.

The Mexican army doesn't do a whole lot better. It is chieftly a disaster-relief outfit since it has nobody to fight. Mexico doesn't want to invade Guatemala, and has not for some time been openly invaded by America, though truculo-louts north of the border urge this bright idea.

So Washington, to keep Americans from doing what in fact they are contentedly doing with no restriction and little inconvenience—using every drug known to man or beast— is wrecking yet another country.
The killing was for some time largely in the northern tier of states, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Durango, and of course Sinaloa, but now the states of Mexico, Guerrero, Michoacan and Jalisco have decapitated bodies strewn about like cherry blossons in spring.

Jalisco, a state in west-central Mexico, contains Guadalajara, Lake Chapala, and me. Along the north shore of Lake Chapala lie Chapala, Ajijic, Jocotepec, and lesser towns inhabited by lots of expat gringos. These towns, as I say, were quiet when I arrived. You could wander home at two in the morning with little concern and a beer in hand. But now the narcos have arrived. Ergo:

A few weeks back in downtown Chapala there was a firefight with automatic weapons. A few days ago a police car on the local by-pass was attacked with automatic weapons. A few days more ago three bodies, buried by kidnappers, were found in Joco, and three local police were arrested for complicity. Various beheaded or chopped-up former people have surfaced locally, as well as a couple of meth labs. I could go on.

So far, gringos have not been targets. This may last. It may not. Still, things are out of control and getting crazier. For example, in Guerrero the narcos told the teachers in the schools of Acapulco to hand over half their pay in protection money, at which point many dozens of schools closed as teachers declined to attend. This comes close to qualifying the country as a disaster area which, without the narco wars, it wasn't even close to being.

What does this mean for Americans? It depends on the Americans. If gringos begin to be attacked here, there will probably be a mass exodus back to the Northern Rubber Room. A few are already bugging out.


For Mexico, such a remigration would be a catastrophe. To simplify and approximate vigorously, Mexican law requires expats to have incomes of a thousand bucks a month. Most have a lot more. I have read that a million gringos live in Mexico. So, a thousand times a million times twelve is, well, a bunch of money annually. Losing it would unhelp the local economy, and probably send people toward the Rio Bravo in bathing suits.

Most Americans don't care at all what happens in Mexico, or anywhere else they can't actually see. However, it is hard to figure the advantage of having a major trading partner turn into Afghanistan with better music.

Conservative bozos of immoderate idiocy fantasize, as mentioned, of sending the Marines. Oh sure, that will work. The Pentagon couldn't win a rigged lottery, much less a war. Mexico, especially in the godawful, broken, infernally impassibe mountains where the dream-weed grows, is perfect for displaying the clownish incapacity of the Nintendo military. The GIs don't know the territory, most don't know the language, the people, or the culture, but they can yell “Ooo-rah!”really well. That's because it has only two syllables.

Nothing can change things except the utter collapse of the US economy and the burning of its cities, a singularity the other side of which is not visible. Any possible sollution would require a decision. The US no longer does decisions. It can neither stop the drug traffic nor legalize it. It can neither win wars nor abandon them, neither make money nor stop spending it, neither stop immigration nor assimilate the immigrants. Washington can beat its thumb with a hammer, yes, and notice that it hurts, but it can't stop beating its thumb. That would take a decision, and Washington doesn't do decisions.

People email me, asking where I would go if I were trying to get out of the crumbling US before the roof falls in. Argentina. Thailand. Viet Nam. China. Pederably to a country without oil. Chile. Maybe Uruguay. Almost anywhere in Europe if you can afford it. Mexico is a fine place, but getting dicey. Very dicey.

18 comments:

Oso said...

Beach,
Good post, my friend. Your humanity and decency enable you to see the misfortune of Mexico as your own, the people as you would see your neighbors and family. It's a gift of empathy, it's also a punishment in the sense that you can't figuratively walk away.

As if things can't continue to get worse, Mexican oil fields like Cantarell are declining rapidly as well - so the economy's biggest source of income is beginning to dry up. And there are those trying to sell off this declining resource for a quick profit.

AMLO will win next time, I think.

lime said...

i admit my own depth of understanding about the situation in mexico is nothing to be proud of. i'm more up on bolivia and yikes.... thanks for challenging me to look a bit more. the author's comments about not being able to make money, stop spending, win/or pull out....yeah, and i think of my ww2 vet grandfathers. they'd be spinning in their grave.

Once Known as The Badger said...

As a real "Commie", I believe the "War on Drugs" is just another way to funnel money to private interests. End the "War on Drugs" and most of the crime will disappear. End the illegality of marijuana, and really, the end if the criminality will disappear, since the huge profits caused by its illegality will disappear. The so called "drug war" is an example of Capitalism at its worst. We're all losers in this particular "war". Peace. ...and, power to the people.

Windsmoke. said...

Nobody twists anybodies arm to indulge in illegal drugs. The only way to win the war on drugs is education. When more people understand that illegal drugs are the cause of death, heartbreak and destruction, changes may happen, not overnight but changes will happen :-).

Ranch Chimp said...

Good Evening Bum ... I had actually read this yesterday, but was unable to comment then, I had to read it twice to actually grasp it, but it was an interesting read for me, being to view opinion's of course. Mexico is a place that I am familiar with and very fond of, and also my personal hobby from year's back and study, was Mayan culture as well as Brujeria (Santeria/ Palo Mayombe) and my girlfriend was a Bruja (spiritualist) in Mexico ... who for me, Mexico is as American and Texan as apple pie and baseball and part of Texas culturally as well as locale/ territorial.

As far as the drug industry is concerned ... cant say much except ... "it's business" ... and of course, supply "alwayz" meet's demand. There has been pitfall's of course, like any other industry/ market ... but that's all I can add ... Thanx though for the read Bum ....

Ranch Chimp said...

Also I like to add, that the real criminal's are in the USA ... these pharma industries who pedal off drug's to every urban kid of low income everytime they question or rebel and call it "atencion deficit disorder" (good thing they didnt have it when I was in school or they would have had me sedated 24/ 7 I was so restless) so they can milk as well the government in social service's money, putting these children on expirimental mind altering drug's that they have no idea what in Hell the long term effect's are going to be, and these piece's of trash are as hypocritical American's as the churches and our lousy lying government! ... and they illegally incarcerate kid's in a multi billion dollar privatized prison system in the USA, other than that I better shut up from going any further, my posting's on this sum it up ... and yes, I am very careful how I word everything I write in my journal now, because of advise from my legal counsel.

Glen said...

It certainly is a worry the way that "the West" has set such precedents against regimes it doesn't aprove of - I find it scary enough and I'm one of them!

Randal Graves said...

That was beautifully nihilistic. Sniff.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some illegal drugs.

John Myste said...

I don't mean to imply that I only look at the pictures or anything, but if the word "Mexico" had not been added to the pinata, the picture would have been far more powerful in my opinion.

Having to "get it," is part of what makes things resonate more than two seconds after we see them.

Good post, though, I suppose. I think I'll read it.

John Myste said...

Now that I think about it, it would have been a bit obscure. However, if one did get it, it would been more powerful.

Beach Bum said...

Oso: ...it's also a punishment in the sense that you can't figuratively walk away.

Yeah, but in another sense. It pisses me off to no end that for lack of a better phrase I am powerless to do anything about it. I have a family, job, and live in a state where a large number of people still fight wars lost in the 19th century.

My concern is a bit selfish like I alluded to in the post. At one time I very much wanted to live in Mexico but given the violence that is probably not going to happen. I have traveled there several times and while it was always in the tourist areas I have loved the people and culture. Far better than most than many of the sanctimonious Americans I am around.

Lime: LOL!!!!
I discovered Fred's column several years ago and while he can get a little off the wall on certain topics for me I highly respect the man and his writing.

Badger: Dude, I am with you on the capitalism thing, now you and I may differ on the scope of how much we hate it. I have no problem with guy of gal making money on some business or new idea they create. My issue with capitalism is how it has become a religion all its own with Profit, like I mentioned, becoming a God to many of those assholes.

As for the War on Drugs, yeah its a scam.

Windsmoke: Yeah, I agree. If we legalized drugs and treated it like we do cigarettes with strong efforts in education that would solve a lot of problems.

Ranch: Yeah, while my interest and affection for Mexico is more obtuse than yours like I mentioned I have loved the place for years.

I completely agree about the pharma industries.

Glen: The huge multinational corporations love to spread democracy. I serious believe an international body will eventually have to be created to rein in those SOB's.

Randal: Thanks! I plan on getting drunk myself tomorrow.

John: Thanks!

Marja said...

Wow you know your facts and are not afraid of hanging out the dirty washing to make people aware. Good on ya. Maybe it is good that the position of the western world slowly starts to change as they didn't make much of it. My parents went to Mexico once and loved it. No they didn't see the bad things as tourists. Maybe we all should be more aware

Mike said...

I have been thinking of Uruguay myself but most like I won't repatriate anywhere. Like Badger I lay this at the feet of capitalists who seem to be the evil flavor of the month although indifference is probably the bigger crime. Thanks beach for a well thought out essay. I had never heard of Fred Reed so I will have to investigate. Reminds me of the sorely missed Joe Bageant.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Scary ... but savagely accurate! If you're serious about heading south, you could do worse than going WAAAAAAY south - all the way down to OZ!!

goatman said...

Very nice rapp; this fellow should be on the cover of the Rolling Stone!

Beach Bum said...

Marja: I'm sure someone will say I am full of nothing but poop but Fred Reed is different. He actually lives there and sees it first hand.

Mike: Fred and Joe wee good friends. I've heard a little about Uruguay and its all good. Yeah, the religion of capitalism is a huge cancer on the planet.

Red Nomad: I would like Oz very much, just need to jump the red tape hurtles. I looked into it a few months back, its sort of tough.

Goatman: Cool!

Dudley the Fat Ass Liberal Beagle said...

I really have nothing to add that would add anything. Just wanted to say good post and good comments.

Beach Bum said...

Dudley: Okay.