Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
This is the first time incorporating the Casual Restaurant Critic in the notthenews Blog, so please feel free to comment and/or report any problems with the linking back and forth.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Called the IMPI (sounds like impy: small, monkey-like - which seems to govern the manner in which they proceed), the Instituto Mexicano de la Propiedad Intelectual is the branch of government that will review your logo, trademark and so on and register it so that no one may copy it. Or that is what they are SUPPOSED to do anyway.
The real life case of one local tshirt printer demonstrates that their efficiency is dubious at best; downright retarded at worst. In an effort to prevent the piracy so common among tshirt printers, the owners of Mayan Xic tried to register some of their more popular phrases and slogans, not to prevent others from saying them or to get some sort of dominion over phrases used in daily speech, but to prevent other tshirt printers from taking the original idea and printing them up for profit themselves.
When you apply for copyright protection, you must first apply ($$) for a 'name search' which will reveal if anyone else has registered the phrase or slogan before you. In the case of Mayan Xic, the phrase UAY (Mayan expression of surprise or fear) was searched for. Since no precedent was found, a formal application was filed (more $$). 6 months later, a letter left the Mexico City office and was delivered in Merida another 3 months after that, informing Mayan Xic that UAY was not available because there was a precedent. What was the precedent? It turns out that the brain surgeons at the IMPI, in true office-cloistered, blinded to reality, burocrat fashion, found that someone (Hershey's no less) had registered Milky Way (really)!!! So much for that. You want to argue the point? Well, you can register a revision of their determination ($$) and wait another 9 months for their probably negative reply.
One of the phrases was actually registered, and it was found that a local printer was printing up shirts with the same phrase. The lawyers were approached and lo and behold, it WAS possible for the IMPI to act. The only caveat? The local office - here in Merida - had no one specialized enough to actually perform the required verification visit to the establishment in question. It turns out that this f^&%$d up system requires you, the person whose registered design is being pirated, to PAY FOR THE IMPI IDIOT TO COME FROM MEXICO CITY!!! Yes, you - already paying taxes that should be covering this - must pay for his airfare, his hotel, and his expenses while he is here doing his job! Is this outrageous or what or is it just me?
Remember the IMPI has an office in Merida - which your tax money is paying for - with over 7 employees in plain sight, none of whom apparently possess that obviously rare additional job skill required to go to a business and verify your complaint. And woe is you if the address you have given him is incorrect; in Merida many houses and businesses are the same number, only the letter changes. For example if your pirate is listed at Calle 50 #500C and the 'inspector' finds that the business is actually at #500B you are out of luck. He does not have the authority to go next door, even if the pirated goods are hanging there in plain sight.
As usual, this information is posted with the hopes that potential business owners in Mexico will read it and realize what kind of stupidity and burocratic entangelments await them in this still - in spite of what President Fox might declare on visits abroad - very much third world country.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Personally, I like to rent a car when I travel. There's nothing worse - to me - than being herded around like some sort of passive cow, having to adhere to someone else's times and interests. Sometimes I like to just stop and have a coffee, buy some roadside peanuts, climb a hill that turns out to be a Mayan ruin or whatever.
But some folks don't have the time or the inclination to rent a car themselves and don't want to use public transportation. And they enjoy getting some clear answers to their questions on life in the Yucatan; objective opinions on what's worth seeing and what's a total tourist trap.
So. In between NotTheNews updates and Casual Restaurant Critic outings as well as regular work, I am going to offer this service - for a limited time to gauge the interest and demand - to those who want the convenience of a comfortable car with a knowledgeable driver AND the complete flexibility to do whatever they want, when they want.
The advantages are:
- No waiting for a rental car or bus
- No hassle with that rental car
- No argument about the rate
- No worries about damage waivers and insurance
- No worries about gassing up before or after and where
- No worries about getting lost
- No worries about missing the bus
- Flexible itineraries based on what YOU want to do and see and WHEN you want to do it
- Being able to pick the brain on life in Yucatan from someone who has lived here for 19 years now
- Getting to places off the beaten track that are not in most guidebooks (if any)
Email me and we can discuss your travel plans for the Yucatan peninsula, if you will be based in - or visiting - the formerly white city of Merida.
Cheers and thanks for putting up with this totally commercial post!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The U.S. elections results seem to indicate that all the bullshit coming out of the hard-ass Republicans is finally, thankfully, wearing thin on the up-to-now paralyzed by fear citizens of the United States.
I know next to nothing about U.S. politics and so will abstain from voicing an opinion on whether or not having Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house of Representatives is a good or bad thing; but it is interesting that there is now a democrat in that position and a woman to boot, which is is a historical first. And since this position is third in line for the presidency, should something awful befall the current pres and vice pres, heaven forbid, that makes it even more intriguing to this complete outsider.
At least now there will be some actual dialogue back and forth instead of one-sided monologues.
Congrats to those who voted. To those who didn't, shame on you.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
The other day my daughter exclaimed to me "Jesus (Hay-SOOS) helped me with my math". Of course she was talking about one of her classmates who shares a name with our biblical protagonist, but when we translated it into English we both thought the phrase was extremely hilarious, especially coming from her, the daughter of the afore-mentioned anglo atheist.
Who knew that Jesus was into algebra?
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Sin embargo, and in response to a reader's question (previous post) I think that Ana Rosa Payan (PAN) is the best choice for governor of the fine state of affairs that is Yucatan.
She is not even the 'official' candidate yet, but one of three candidates vying for the position from the PAN political party. PAN, for those of you reading from some other place than the tuch of the world, means Partido de Accion Nacional, or National Action Party. The current president, Vicente Fox, as well as his successor Felipe Calderon and the present governor of Yucatan are all from the PAN party which was Mexico's second strongest political force, behind the PRI (Partido de la Revolucion Institucional or Institutional Revolutionary Party). After Fox was elected, the PAN became Mexico's prominent political force.
Back to Yucatan: of the three PAN candidates (lackluster and overtly conciliatory to business Xavier Abreu and over-the-top silly Luis Correa, still riding on his father's many accomplishments) this neurotic non-interfering foreigner believes that Ana Rosa is the only one that has any huevos (and the other two are MEN who should have some, but don't) and will be able to do whatever is necessary to move Yucatan forward, in spite of whatever interests and old-school impediments that might present themselves.
As mayor of Merida, her attempt to modernize the stinking cesspool that is Merida's market was met with much criticism but she actually did something rather than just talk about it. She faced down angry, spoiled locatarios who would have to move their hovels to a different location (they pay next top nothing for the right to occupy these spaces; they should be glad they have a place to sell their crap at all and not have to act like a real business anywhere else).
After seeing her dodge insults and thrown objects as well as a lot of pushing and shoving she had me convinced. Add to that the fact that she has taken her stilted, squawky speaking style and become a lucid and fluent orator (which means she is capable of taking a look at herself and making improvements) has made her a definite forerunner in this race for the governor's postion... IMHO.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I thought it most pertinent and, as usual for anything written by this observer/writer, extremely well written and to the point. For Mexico is not just palm trees and cheap servants. There are things that anyone contemplating a move here should know; they just might take for granted that these little details, the solution of which would seem obvious and a done deal, were already taken care of. They are not.
I have tried to translate it as closely as possible to the original including the tone as well as the message.
For a little background, read up on recent events in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the state of juvenile law in Yucatan and student protests in Mexico. The idea is not to alarm anyone, but to really alarm everyone, so that maybe a little pressure will make the authorities actually DO something.
It's wonderful and very healthy to be able to do whatever one wants, whatever one feels like doing. Here are some tips on how to go about doing just that:
The first tip is only for those who have their voter registration card, who have a penchant for social revindication and who are sick and tired of historical slights and inequalities.
Go shopping for a straw hat, a red bandana and a can of white spray paint. Get yourself a decent machete (you can buy a quality model just off the Calle Ancha del Bazar here in the formerly-white city of Merida) and head - together with another 200 like-minded persons - towards the city's center. Make sure your that the timing of your procession coincides with that time of the day when downtown Merida's traffic is at it's horn-blaring, exhaust-spewing worst.
Once you are there, do whatever it is you have always wanted to do; don't hold back or hesitate; let your thirst for justice run wild, unleash all your fury.
Overturning cars is good, setting busses on fire better; go ahead and spray paint graffitti on storefront windows and historical buildings, block access to public buildings, kidnap anyone who happens by and destroy anything belonging to the community you can get your judiciary hands on.
You need not fear punishment or the application of any law for that matter. The National Commission for Human Rights is there for you 24 hours a day. No government authority will even attempt to get in the way of your fun. We have spent far too many centuries in achieving this level of freedom of expression to have someone come and reprimand us 'just because'.
Important Note: The mob is indispensable. Do not attempt this alone since this will result in you facing a judge and perhaps being sentenced to 15 years in jail.
The second tip is for those under the age of 17; adventurous, red-blooded youths suffering from misunderstandings great and small.
First, you must acquire a knife in the market known as Bazar Garcia Rejón, where rules regarding the sale of such artifacts are completely and happily ignored. After about a week, the idea is to stand on a street corner in your neighborhood with other under-age and resentful teens where you can show off your new weapon.
One night - any night will do - feeling a little offended, misunderstood or just in a bad mood, you insert blade of the afore-mentioned weapon into the lower abdomen of some person who happens to be nearby and that you don't particularly care for very much, keeping the blade lodged there until the victim is most assuredly dead. When the Ministerio Publico (read police) arrive - if they do at all - it is important not to offer up any resistance and shed copious tears for all the injustices suffered in the past: abuse by parents and teachers, police brutality, globalization, a drug problem etc.
In no time at all, the victim will not be the stiff cadaver, in whose defense no one will speak, but you! We can bet that a psychologist will be dispatched to look into your case, a file will be started on you and a tutor assigned as well. All this will happen in the 48 hours after your detainment, after which you will be set loose so you can get on with your life, no worries. Isn't it great this doing whatever we want?
The third tip is for disgruntled students unwilling to accept internal rules, statutes, federal laws and other minutae that tend to make one's existence such 'a drag'.
Get about 50 students together - either sex is fine - get an attitude happening and start making protesting gestures. The group isn't complete without the six or seven students who have Shakira lyrics wallpapered on their brains and for whom 'soneto' is a Nestlé ice cream product.
Yell as loudly as possible about your rights as pubescents and the future of the country and remember as many old, communist-era protest chants as possible. "Si la leche es poca, al niño le toca" (if there's only a little milk, give it to the children) "El hijo del obrero va primero" (the workers child comes first) etc.
Demand to be able to wear ear and nose rings, tattoos, pendants; color your hair and use any cosmetic you feel like. Insist on the use of cellular phones in class, sale of condoms in the school store. Your opinions must be absolutely respected, even if you demand this in language that otherwise might have been known as foul. Demand also more comprehension from school principals and counsellors. Praise the attitude of those teachers who are indeed, understanding, and do not hesitate to physically remove those teachers bold enough to attempt to restore some semblance of order. In the case of these, there is a formulaic approach that cannot fail: accuse them of sexual harrassment, of groping, of leering and lusting disgustingly. Go ahead and dare to do whatever you feel like. What could possibly happen to them that wouldn't be for their own good? The crime of slander doesn't even exit anymore in the penal code. You can defame someone, walk all over their reputation with big muddy boots, do whatever you want! The SEP (the federal Ministry of Education) will support you and the DIF (federal organism that oversees social programs for the young) will be most understanding.
The expat quiz - IMHO - could be a little more sublime; something along the lines of the questions outlined in the following
Are You Ready to Become an ExPat in Yucatan? Questionnaire.
For Regular Folks
- Do you like the idea of giving up the newspaper as a source of objective news?
- Do you enjoy the bumper car attraction at your local fair enough to engage in this activity on a daily basis with your own personal commuting device?
- While on the subject of driving, do you find painted lanes, traffic signs and other such nonsense to be simply a restriction on your personal freedoms in a libertarian sort of way?
- Does the idea of spending a week or more renewing your FM3 permit (lo siento, pero le faltó la copia de su _____) on an annual basis make you feel good about governments in general?
- Do you enjoy receiving bi-monthly electricity bills for peso amounts completely at odds with your actual consumption?
- When you complain to the omnipotent CFE about the previously mentioned point and realize that it is they themselves who determine - and no one else - what to charge, do you think "Wow, these folks are really efficient!"
- How about power outages on a weekly or 'whenever it rains' basis? Do those make you think how lucky you are to be able to enjoy conversations with neighbors or dust off that scrabble board and think of interesting words (mayan ones don't count) by candlelight?
- Do you feel superior and get an ego boost when Mexicans jack up the price of anything they're selling (car, house, rent, whatever) when they see the color of your freckles and hear your terrible accent?
- Do you enjoy, and find challenging, remodeling your home on a continuous basis, thereby providing employment for many and varied tradespeople, each of whom will undermine the work done by the previous one?
- Does the adoption of stray street dogs and treating them like pampered family members make you feel that somehow you have changed and become a better person?
Of course there are many more items and perhaps one day I will put them up, especially those related to work and business ownership.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
- The "Hanal pixán ", or eaten of the bores, is a tradition of the Mayan town that takes to the end to remember of a special way the friends and relatives who went ahead in the eternal trip.
- salt but: tortilla to which meat is put to him underneath ollejo and soon is fried to eat. The name is formed by Salt: light, and But: to insert, that is to say, slightly inserted.
I have lived in Merida for close to 20 years, and have never seen this local dish called by this name. I thought it was a salbut. Maybe there is new saltier version out there. And to have meat put underneath your ollejo sounds positively pornographic, even without that last phrase 'slightly inserted'. In fact the definition doesn't make any sense: If Salt in Mayan means Light and But to Insert Slightly what you have is a flashlight up your butt. Really, now.
Definitely have a look at the page! It's a riot.
Oh, and before you get your knickers in a twist and start composing your email to me saying that I am such a culturally insensitive boor and how dare I criticize this poor third world attempt at explaining what is obviously a charming pagan ceremony, let me clarify three things: a) I LOVE the Hanal Pixan and have made altars myself and am an avid consumer of copious quantities of mucbipollos (with or without espelon, limpios or with bones) thereby stimulating the local underground economy; b) the page is maintained by probably the largest and most important media company in the Yucatan with newspapers and more and enough of a budget to warrant a proper translation and c) I have personally offered at one point to translate for these folks, especially in the embarassing tourism translations department, and had no takers.
Friday, September 22, 2006
THERE IS NO PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL CASES INVOLVING JUVENILES IN THE STATE OF YUCATAN
Apparently there is some sort of loophole at the local level that doesn't quite jibe with the rest of the country's criminal laws. So, the same old tired PRI, PRD and PAN politicians discuss and argue about the trivialities and stupidities they argue about, usually involving funding of something or other, while this charming and little known (until this latest case brought it up) problem lies waiting for another life to be lost without consequence.
Imagine the impact on a previously unknown segment of the tourism industry! Their slogan could be: If you are 17 and want to kill someone, no problem! You don't have to enlist in the Marines and go through all that training to go to Iraq, just come to Merida and fulfill your fantasy without fear of consequence! Stab 'em, rob 'em, kill 'em. No problem. Merida - the Red City!
Of course this could wreak havoc with other tourism industry market segments, like all those gringos who have come down to buy old houses and inflate real estate prices, retiring and all that.
I am hoping that enough gringos read this before coming to Merida and that they will think twice about it; hopefully the tourism sector will protest with the potential in lost revenue and something will be done. In the past, my little website has been criticized by a few ignorant locals who think that it causes economic harm to the Yucatan. Well I hope this particular news item DOES cause economic harm and makes all the idiot politicians get their priorities straight.
Turns out that a lady told off a Puma which, in the Yucatan, is not a large cat but a division of the local state police. If you live here you've seen 'em; they're the ones that ride around on motorcycles in dark blue uniforms with a machine gun strapped to their backs, wearing extra-dark sunglasses. The Puma in question didn't like the lady's tone and asked her to pull over; she ignored him, closed her car window and sped off. The cop gave chase and again asked her to pull over. She again gave him a piece of her mind and sped off yet again. The frustrated policeman called for backup and with the help of another two motorcycle policemen tried to get her out of her car, but she refused.
When they were about to proceed to the next level, which in this case was getting the car onto a tow truck with the driver inside (this is done here, not to worry) another fine, upstanding lady appeared to appeal on the first woman's behalf. She apologized and said the lady was a little nuts (duh) and that she (the second lady) was a friend of the Chief of Police, Don Javier Medina and that she was a member of the PAN party (the party in power in the city and state government at the moment) and that she would take the lady home.
Amazingly (can you see this happening in Philadelphia or Innsbruck?) the police backed off and let the two go!
This is really a great country! Not only can someone who is obviously out of their mind drive a car, they can also mouth off to a policeman and then have some influential friend get them off. The people from the PAN complained ad nauseum when this happened in Mexico's PRI (the former ruling party) years; now they are doing the same thing!
So those of you thinking about retiring in Merida, come on down! It's a wonderfully lawless land where anything goes! In fact it's amazing that anything gets accomplished at all!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The sign says Gambi but the misspelled name didn't deter me from stopping and finding out what Gumby's name and likeness is doing on a sign for tortas calientes in Merida.
Well much to my surprise who should open the door of the sandwich place but Gumby himself! Leaning on a yellow rubber cane, but in otherwise apparent great health, he asked me in and prepared a torta cubana for me as he told me of his latest adventures.
It turns our that our Gumby aka Gambi is getting on in years and is retired permanently from television. "It was Scooby Doo that started it" Gumby says, slicing a red onion. "the animation just kind of went downhill after that." Green tears begin leaking down his green cheeks. "Don't get me wrong; I'm glad I got out when I did" he says and then adds "it's the onions".
After seeing his program decline in the ratings department and having it reduced to occasional showings on retro channels like Nickelodeon, Gumby took a long hard look at his career and decided that he had had enough. He asked his friend what he tought of the idea of retirement. Pokey was being auditioning for a small, but pivotal part in a new Nick Park flick and so was not as pessimistic and tired as Gumby, and told him as much. It was then that Gumby came to a decision. He would take his earnings from years of being stretched thin on U.S. television and move to someplace relatively close but still far away enough to feel like he was in a different world altogether.
Gumby finishes piling pierna, ham and cheese on the open faced baguette and drops the other half of the bread on top. His one giant green finger group is slick with grease from the pierna. He smiles, that Gumby smile we all know and love. "The secret to a good torta, you see, is to heat it like this" he says as he crushes the torta under a heavy smoking hot metal sandwichera.
"So yeah, I came to the Yucatan and found it was a perfectly relaxed place, no politics, no worries. And I opened this torta restaurant." He adds: "Business has grown to the point where I don't even have to touch my royalty payments from Hollywood, although it isn't all that much."
However, At first, Gumby found the hot Yucatecan climate disagreed with his body and found it hard to adapt. "It was so hot when I first came here that I would find myself bent out of shape many times" he exclaims, rolling his eyes as he recalls those early days. But then, air conditioning became more and more common and soon Gumby was completely acclimatized.
I ask Gumby what he misses the most about the U.S., about television, about his years as a star. his eyes tear up again. This time I suspect it's not the onions. "What I miss most is the camaderie Pokey and I had while filming all those programs. He never got that part with that English guy - they gave it to a dog instead and Pokey was heartbroken. I called him up and said, 'come down here and get away from it all' told him he could stay as long as he wanted. But he never did."
Taking out my wallet to pay for the torta. Gumby waves it away. "Don't worry about it". I thank him and shake that funny hand of his.
Who would have dreamed that Gumby would end up in Merida? Amazing little town, this.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
In fact, there was a real bomb in Merida yesterday - or was it the day before? - two grenades were tossed into the local office of the Por Esto! newspaper here in Merida. Yes, Merida. Grenades. Sounds incredible, but it happened.
The narco violence that has been creeping steadily south for the last couple of years has reached Cancun; there have been at least 5 narco-related assasinations in the last few weeks. The governor of the state of Quintana Roo assures everyone that this is only narco-on-narco violence and that the general populace should not be alarmed. Yeah right. Unless you happen to be in the path of a stray bullet at the disco or in some supermarket or a hotel lobby.
Now that violence has finally reached Merida. The Por Esto! paper is a bold-headline newspaper that uses every opportunity to publish shocking and provoking reports that no other newspaper down here would touch. I have no idea if what they write is true or false; apparently they have pissed off someone with a violent streak and after a similar explosive incident at the Por Esto! offices in Cancun, it is Merida's turn.
Used to be you would read about all the violence up north and be thankful that you were in the Yucatan, donde no pasa nada. Well, it's time to reassess the situation.
The trampled and violated Mexican constitution states that the president has no obligation to actually read it; just hand it in. So that's what was done.
It is a boring tradition anyway, where all the wonderful things that have happened in the last six years, the one-term mandate, are read by the president until his audience becomes glassy-eyed in boredom. The televised informes have been getting progressively louder and out of control, as legislators from the opposition parties have become increasingly vocal and irate. Especially the PRD. This time, they went so far as to not let the president speak at all.
Mr. Fox then went on national radio with a previously recorded speech, indicating that he knew that this was going to happen.
It was a non-event after all that speculation.
The country awaits, with baited breath, the grito, which should definitely be more interesting.
Friday, August 25, 2006
I don't want to get into whether I think this is a good idea or not, or even the actual text of what thePresident is supposed to gritar - it's not my place to criticize the customs of a country still caught up in the revolution, complete with images and songs about cannons, horses and the like - in this particular diatribe.
No, here I am wondering how this time the event will prove to be most interesting since we will have two presidents! The deluded Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - most likely to lose the past presidential election - has declared that on the night in question he will have a huge meeting in the zócalo in Mexico City where he will singlehandedly, unilaterally (and, I would suggest, unanimously) declare himself President of Mexico. This is exciting because Mexico already has a president and his name is Fox. So there will be a face-off of sorts in the plaza that night; Lopez Obrador shouting to the country that he is the president and that the elections were a fraud, and Fox Quesada shouting "Viva Morelos, Viva Mexico" at the top of his lungs from the balcony.
Who will win the shouting match? It promises to be an interesting night.
These are interesting times we live in... keep your eyes and ears open.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Excuse me - I had to laugh while I wrote that last line.
The situation in Oaxaca, where a screaming militant mob disguised as a teachers union has taken over the city center until their demands to negotiate with the federal government are met, is completely over the top. They will not negotiate at the state level and would like the governor removed, thank you very much. Maybe they would enjoy a non-fat latté with that order? Anyone living in Oaxaca or wanting to visit the city are prevented from visiting the city center thanks to these hooligans who may or may not be justified in their demands. The fact is, they are affecting the interests of many many other people who have nothing to do with their protest. The owners of businesses in downtown Oaxaca are unable to open, since there is no one to open for, besides the protesters. This has been going on for over 80 days now. No one has done anything. The governor is either incompetent, impotent or an idiot. I suspect maybe all three.
Not to be outdone, in Mexico City, the thugs, goons and all those lazy shits who prefer protesting to actually getting a job have been hired by the second place presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lope Obrador (PRD) to blocking entire avenues in the nation's capital. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses are suffering, as are all the people who have jobs in the area. No pedestrians or cars can enter the Reforma zone and the protest has spread to other areas as well, including banks and toll road booths leading in and out of the city. One of the largest cities in the world is becoming a parking lot, thanks to a few misguided militant mudslingers holding it's 24 million inhabitants ransom.
My question is this: where in the hell are the laws in this country? Is there no law that says that blocking streets to effect a protest is illegal? In Mexico City there is one, put into place by a former mayor of Mexico City by the name of... get this: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. This guy, AMLO, is the Master of Cynicism. The current 'elected' mayor of the city is a Lopez Obrador crony (also PRD) who has refused to move the protestors since this would be considered 'repression'. So much for the rule of law. It's mob rule.
And the federal government has not intervened - not in Mexico City, not in Oaxaca - since that would make them seem 'repressive' and that the situations in both cases are state issues that have nothing to do with the federal government. I wonder if anyone in the federal government has any balls whatsoever or were they all castrated before moving into Los Pinos?
What a crock of shit. If a state governor cannot (or will not) act in favor of ALL the citizens of his or her jurisdiction, then there must be a mechanism by which a higher authority - in this case the federal government - steps in to restore order.
President Fox has tried to limit his interference in state and local issues, preferring to let the system deal with these as they arise. This is probably good in a democracy. But a democracy must have that mechanism mentioned in the previous paragraph. Can he just sit idly by as millions of dollars are lost each day and thousand remain unable to work or freely move about their cities? So he hides behind his position of 'I don't want to go down as a repressive Presidente'. Well gues what Vicente? You are going down in history as the most useless, ineffectual and 'most given to making idiotic declarations' of all Presidentes. I mean, Zedillo was pretty lame. But your presidency takes the cake.
As you can tell by this rant, it pisses me off to no end that the Mexican politicians in power right now are so chicken-shit and unable to restore the rule of law. There is no law in Mexico right now. If you get enough people together, you can do whatever the hell you want. No one will interfere since they don't want to appear 'repressive' and use that excuse to hide behind their cowardice.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
How: there is no indication of how, nor where the money for those fair pensions will come from which could be a problem because 'Roberto' aka David Copperfield is also going to lower the price of gas, gasoline and electricity. Battered women and domestic violence? Violence and crime in general? Roberto 'El Mago Korbel' has this all under control. Don't you worry about a thing.
All these vacuous proposals say so little and leave one wondering how in the world these catchy slogans are going to translate into actual actions.
I have a few more proposals I would like to see a presidential candidate make.
The bloated, corrupt and self serving labor unions have served their purpose, since the days of the slave-like haciendas are over and the world is growing smaller and becoming one homogenous mass of humanity. I would like to see a candidate challenge the notion that some of these union benefits are still viable in 2006 and beyond.
For example, take the union that 'represents' the workers of the Comision Federal de Electricidad. Their one outstanding benefit that is a slap in the face to all the other folks who work to pay their bills, is the one that states that all CFE employees get free electricity. Free electricity! The one biggest bill that a homeowner can have is the electricity bill. But all the CFE employees do not have to contend with this one! Cool huh? Cool is right, because all the CFE employee houses have multiple air conditioners on, 24/7. This is so ridiculous that if it wasn't true it would be laughable. How can a company be profitable and efficient with this kind of overhead. Sorry, but this benefit must go.
Another fine example is the aguinaldo. I have written on these subjects before, but hey, maybe someone with a whole lot of 'huevos' will take the initiative. At the end of each year, Mexico's ancient 15th century labor laws state that employees must receive an additional 15-day paycheck called an aguinaldo. Some companies, and governments in particular, have extended this questionable 'benefit' to 1 month or more. How in the world can wages ever be increased if at the end of the year, the employer - the evil 'patron' - must shell out additional paychecks. Would it not be more beneficial to increase wages year-round and have people live better year-round?
And while I am on the subject of wages, why do employers have to pay a 48 hour work week and the 7th day (of no work) as well? In other words, a 56 hour work week? Another reflection on the ridiculously ancient labor laws in effect in this crazy country.
It is time to get those wage laws into the 21st century and I would love to hear some presidential candidate say that his proposal was to move to an hourly salary for employees. An hourly salary based on productivity and flexible enough to accomodate students, part-timers, working Moms and the employers themselves.
Hopefully a presidential candidate, if not for this election, a future one, is reading this...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Here are some original ideas that would sway my vote (if I could vote, which I can't 'cuz I am a foreigner). These are concrete ideas that would make a difference to many people and help Mexico out of it's paternalistic 15th century mindset, and not be so much more BOshit.
1. Do away with some taxes. Any tax. Here's one idea - I humbly suggest eliminating the onerous tenencia tax. Tax for having a car. Would that the money be used for a purpose even remotely green in nature. I don't see it. This dumb-ass tax is like the income tax up north in that it started as a one-time thing. A 'temporary measure' to raise money for some Olympics. Well the 'temporary' has become permanent and the politicians must be licking their chops every year when the stupid populace says 'ni modo' and pays up.
2. This one is even better. The 'employment tax'. Here is the Mexican government - at all levels - bitching and moaning about employment, we need more employment, we need jobs, job creation, the private sector has a responsability to provide jobs etc. etc. We need foreign investors to come here and open factories and sweat shops and and and. Bla bla bla.
Then, when the jobs are created, the factories opened, the investor naively believing the fairy tales coming from the mouths of Mexican politicians, you get slapped with an employment tax.
Forgive my ignorance, but I don't know what the rate is in other states of the Mexican Republic, but in the Yucatan it is 2% of your payroll. In short, you the employer, are being punished for creating more jobs. Thank you for investing here and providing those jobs.... now pay me. Like the 'tenencia' tax, if this employment tax was put to provably good use, well great. But I don't see it. I don't think anyone else does either.
3. The last proposal for the presidential candidates for this particular emission also regards vehicles. The North American Free Trade Agreement opened the border up to imports of personal vehicles. For the first few years of this agreement, the vehicles had to be pickup trucks and OVER 10 YEARS OLD! To help the poor farmers you see. I still don't see any campesinos driving pickup trucks but there sure are a lot of them. So we now have all the old vehicles that in the US are no longer of any use. This policy, a true third world idea, promotes the use of inefficient vehicles and technology which help to destroy the Mexican environment. the message to the world is 'Poor us, we can only afford your first world shitty cast-offs.' Why don't they do this with clothing too? We could all dress in hand me down clothing from the richer nations!
The proposal is this: eliminate the vehicle tenencia tax on any new car featuring non-fossil fuel technology. That is, promote the import and purchase of vehicles that are environment-friendly thereby placing Mexico in the forefront of environmental conservation technology.
I have a few more proposals that I will throw out there in upcoming writings. Perhaps they will make sense to one or more candidates.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The heat has come back on as it does every April in the Yucatan. The land looks scorched, what's left of Merida's natural vegetation (that which can still be seen around the ever-expanding grey city) is dull and grey and those unfortunate people lacking air conditioners in their cars (you know, the ones that have a "for sale" sign on them that says the car has A.C.) hang various bodily appendages out of their windows while driving in the vain hope that somehow, something, might get cooled off. Even the ever-present, mangy street dogs are less energetic than ever, if that is possible, lying around with their tongues hanging down to the sidewalk, sides heaving in the heat.
Many factors can be blamed for the heat that seems to be getting more and more intense each year (and it's not just me). The greatest factor, at least at the local level because I don't want to get into global fossil fuel consumption, the Kyoto Accord - thank YOU Australia you coal burning 16th cetury throwbacks and thank YOU USA for protecting your fat oil company presidents at all costs - ahem, as I was saying the greatest factor, at the local level, in my humble opinion, is at least partially due to the expanding, cement-fueled growth of the formerly white city and the burning and destruction of what's left out there that is green.
Downtown, el centro seems impossible. What with all the buildings, the traffic and the mass of humanity that swarms there every day, it is like taking a relaxing stroll in an extremely noisy industrial convection oven. Even so, it is evidently a planned city, where spaces for streets, buildings, and parks were, at one time (I am talking back in the colonial days, not anytime in recent memory), carefully thought out. There are many lush, refreshing interior gardens in el centro; many public parks with giant, shady trees under which to find refuge from the assault. These trees are so large that any attempt to cut one of them down results in a public outcry and the dirty deed usually is stopped.
It is another story altogether in the new fraccionamientos, the ones being built on tiny individual lots by constructors who obviously have little regard for the concept 'quality of life' unless it refers to their own, where it must truly be hell during this time of the year. In housing developments like Las Americas on the road to Dzitya, the monstrous Francisco de Montejo and others near the periferico, the houses are built, shoebox style, on tiny lots that leave little room for planting a cooling shade tree (you didn't expect the constructor to think of that did you?) let alone anything resembling a lawn, garden or something to that effect. So each of these shoeboxes will get their air conditioner, adding another grain of sand to the ever increasing challenge of climatic change. The so-called green areas, where children could play, trees could grow and oxygen could be replacing carbon monoxide, which are mandated by the municipality when granting permission to builed these one story ghettos, invariably end up being converted to parking and or commercial areas.
With regards to these new housing developments, I would like to extend my congratulations to the following for making Merida, and Yucatan in general, that much hotter, less green and drier, not to mention damn uglier:
- the construction companies -out to make a buck, a peso or many pesos, the construction companies that build the so-called 'clase popular' housing deserve a hearty pat on the back because they are dividing up the large parcels of (formerly green) land in the Yucatan, dividing them into extra small, bite size pieces, so that every family can have an affordable house. How good of them; it almost makes them look like saints. Of course they are for-profit businesses and are within their right to exploit whatever it takes to make a profit, right? One can't expect a these companies to consider such things as 'quality of life' and 'dignity' of their customers, the environment (who has the time) or the long-term effects of their depradation. So they exploit whatever they can: needy campesinos who sell off at ridiculously cheap prices the only thing of value left ot them, their land. Needy families who are being paid such low wages that they cannot afford a house bigger than a case of Coronitas, weak municipal, state and federal governments that can be persuaded to bend rules in exchange for some takin. It seems that the housing construction companies subscribe to the U.S. right wing Ann Coulter "rape the earth, it's yours" school of thought.
- But none of this would be possible if the government was doing the job it was supposedly 'elected' (smirk) to do; to govern, not make money like another corporation. Instead, the inefficient, bloated and corrupt government - at all levels - with it's pathetically paternalistic third world mentality becomes the facilitator of all the rest. At the federal level, the junior politicians in Mexico City who grew up without clean skies, wildlife or anything natural, surrounded by the ugly mess that makes up a large part of Mexico City, are designing housing programs for the rest of the country. These housing programs rarely take into account local conditions and are based on the Mexico City Mess Mindset. Eventually the entire country will be that ugly. Through it's Infonavit program, the federal government contracts the construction companies - add a generous helping of corruption and kickbacks at this point - and approves projects that are destined to become future slums.
While the city is being paved over, out in the Yucatecan countryside the campesinos, Yucatan's farming folk which has a romantic ring to it when they are in fact the poorest of the poor, weigh in with their contribution to the general increase in temperatures by continuing with their age old tradition of burning their lands, thereby ridding them of last year's crop leftovers or whatever it is that bothers them so much.
Gigantic grey smoke clouds can be seen all over the peninsula; apparently sometimes these 'small' 'controlled' burns become somewhat larger thanks to the hot winds blowing this time of year. This ancient and charming tradition apparently goes back to Mayan farmers many many moons ago (the resulting barren-ness of the croplands coincidentally contributing greatly to their demise but we won't talk about that; let's stick with the magical peaceful nature-loving theories and that they all dissappeared when aliens came and abducted them) and obviously results in the burning not only of that disturbing corn stalk left over from last year, but also any shred of organic material that might have turned into valuable topsoil leaving the land looking like a nuclear bomb went off. After an agricultural burn, the land is black, with grey patches where the rocks stick out. A lovely sight. When the burn goes out of control, the result is the same with the added visual of skeletal charred tree trunks poking out of the smoldering ash covered rock.
When the rains finally come, and they eventually do although increasingly less it seems (hmmm wonder why that is) the campesinos poke around in the ashes between the stones, making small holes and then drop seeds into them.
This it the Yucatan peninsula in April. Of course there many wonderful things about Yucatan in April, none of which come to mind at this particulary sweaty time of the year ewhen one wants to run screaming into a walk-in freezer, but the infernal heat is not one of them. Of course there are many hopeless romantics who have been and are writing on the wonders of Merida as you read this and you can turn to them for affirmation and support for that investment in Muna you just made.
As for the heat, there's not much to do about it, except to learn to live with it, I suppose. In my particular case, I have chosen to live outside the city, and when building our house, was pretty adamant that any tree at all that could be left, be in fact left. Now all the trees have grown and thrived and the property is cool and green. So if you can, find something green and nurture it and convince others to do the same.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Shiny and new are of course, euphemisms, euphamisms or euphomisms (I like the first spelling the best, how about you?) since none of the contenders for president of this beautiful country are shiny or new.
Rather, they are dull and old. The same tired old slogans, promises, toothy grins and 3/4 shots looking 'handsome' on giant billboards around the country. There are 3 candidates in the running: Felipe Calderon (PAN), Roberto Madrazo (PRI) and Andres Lopez (PRD). In addition to those main characters, the play this time around includes a decent female candidate Patricia Mercado, representing some obscure political alliance and Dr. Simi, who runs a chain of pharmacies across the country; his marketing slogan (for the pharmacies anyway) is the same product, for less. This could probably apply to the political offerings of all the candidates in this federal election as well. Dr. Simi's campaign tours include scantily-clad 'Simi Chicas', models - they are called that in reference to his name and not to any possible simian resemblance on their part - who drape themselves around Dr. Simi and say very little, thus promoting not only the good doctor, but also women's liberation and positive feminism, in that charmingly degrading way so common to Latin American third world countries.
I don't, being the casual observer that I am, perceive any particular enthusiasm so far, with regards to any one candidate, beyond the usual paid-for-by-the-party fervor at public events where each candidate appears. There is no sense of renewal or hope, like there was in the 2000 election when Vicente Fox (PAN) drove the PRI out of the president's chair after they had held that office for 70 years! 70 years! There is no sense of any excitement at all; in fact, there is a growing sense (again I am not a professional analyst, just gut feelings here) of apathy, total and complete discontent, discouragement, disappointment and dissatisfaction with the whole electoral process. I believe that voter abstention will be way up from the last federal elections, when Fox won.
Who will the shiny, new president be? One of these three:
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (PRD) - a mouthful of a name which the gringos will probably shorten to Andres Lopez - which doesn't have the same regal ring to it.
AMLO (as he is abbreviated) is the governor/leader/mayor of Mexico City, the unmanageable, overpopulated, polluted and corrupt largest city in Mexico and official international municipal basket case and as such has been charged with causing all the city's woes. It is ridiculous to think that any one man is responsible for the irresponsibility of 25 million citizens each of whom believes that it is their god-given right to do as they please, when they please, and to whomever they please at whatever time they bloody well feel like it. So please. As if anyone could restore order there. Jesus Christ himself would throw his hands up in despair and go back to the cross. Mexico City is a mess because the citizens of Mexico City have made it so. But I digress.
AMLO has a good chance of getting a lot of votes from the people he has helped, which are mostly the ignorant masses of the needy and the elderly (who are also needy) to whom he has generously (not out of his own pocket of course) and grandly distributed small tokens of ... of... money. Despised by many who see him as a leftist Chavez-style threat, he is just a smooth operator, leading the PRI rejects in a style reminiscent of the past. One of his goals ('get money'), apparently, is to maintain tight control over Mexican state industries like Pemex and the electricity monopolies. This is a popular concept in many deluded Mexican's minds, who think that having their resources exploited, and being robbed, by their own fellow Mexicans with no accounting whatsoever is better than having it done by someone else. In their warped and fervently nationalistic brains, rather than having competition from three or four international firms vying for our resources and having our well-thought-out conditions met, it is better to have our giant, inefficient, bureaucratic, polluting Soviet-style enterprise (Por el Progreso de Mexico!!!!) (Un Pais Con Energia es un Pais con Futuro!!!) doing whatever the hell they want.
AMLO appeals to this kind of geopolitical mindset, the whiners who think life is unfair. The same ones who complain that the gringos are too hard on the Mexicans sneaking across the border and that they have RIGHTS por Dios.
Felipe Calderon Hinojosa (PAN) is the ruling party's 'gallo'. The 'gallo' is the rooster, and this is the one Vicente Fox's party picked to run against the others. Said to be more of a follower of the PAN political doctrine (whatever that may be, other than 'get money'), Felipe is seen as the only half-decent choice from a pack of really crappy candidates. He has changed his campaign slogan at least 3 times; which means that he is a) not thinking his campaign slogans through very well, b) not very consistent in his ideas or c) didn't have enough money to pay for a decent campaign manager.
He seems to me, to be the middle of the road kinda guy, the 'pan sin sal' (bread without salt) or 'caca de paloma - ni apesta ni huele' (pigeon shit - doesnÂ´t smell either way) candidate who will, by default, when those few voters who do go out and stand in line to vote (What for? they wonder), get the 'voto de castigo' which is the punishing vote. To punish the other, worse, candidates, the voters will punish them by voting for Calderon. A sad way to win but in the end ('get money') it works.
Roberto Madrazo Pintado (PRI) - the ancient, Triassic-era PRI has resurrected this dinosaur from the swampy depths of the political tar pits, who now touts himself as something new and fresh. Your grandmothers last weeks Depends are fresher than this guy. He stands for everything that was, and yet some people actually believe it (or, I suspect, are being paid handsomely and desperately, to say they do).
His vision (besides 'get money') includes the triumphant return of the PRI to power, while bitching and moaning about all the things the PAN is doing (and his party ignored and laughed off the same accusations when they were made by the PAN to the then-ruling PRI) and has shortened his campaign name from Roberto Madrazo to just Roberto. Roberto sounds more friendly don't you think? Why, when you put it like that, I even forget what his last name was... ah yes, Madrazo. A 'madrazo' in Mexican slang, is a 'hit' as in a physical slap, punch, kick. If someone gives you a 'madrazo' then you have been hit. Does this have anything to do with the sudden name-shortening? I wonder.
There you have the short list of the fine fellows who aspire to Mexico's presidency in the next federal elections. None have any original, novel ideas to help push what could still be a great country in the right direction. In my next attempt at political journalism, I will try to outline what I think are some important steps that a political candidate could try to undertake to move Mexico from the 17th century and it's 'Moon Over Parador' feel to the year 2006.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
At the moment, I am more than a little concerned with the ever-declining tree population in Merida and the Yucatan in general. The big picture, when seen from the air as in an airplane when you are flyoing somewhere from Merida, is that there is still lots of greenery out there. Huge tracts of land, green and lush. But the development that is happening around Merida, the outskirts so to speak, are square white and grey stains on this green landscape and it is pretty frightening.
Merida's centro and the older colonias still look pretty balanced as far as white and grey concrete vs. green oxygen-providing vegetation. But all those new developments, especially the larger ones like Francisco de Montejo to the north and Juan Pablo II in the south, are completely devoid of anything green.
I am rambling I know but this is the beginning of the end of life in the Yucatan as we know it. The rural, peaceful, relaxed and the "hammock under a huge shade tree" feel of the Yucatan will make way for the urban, rushed, noisy, tree-less absolute mess that is Mexico City. The entire country is patterned on the way development has progressed in Mexico City; that seems to be the natural direction and example to follow.