Guest Blog – LET’S BLAME MEXICO

Friends Richard and Leslie recently sent out a letter expressing their displeasure at the Mexico Bashing that seems to be eminating from some in the USofA. I agree with much of what they say, and too feel my hackles rise when everything gets blamed on Mexico, or when Mexico is being portrayed in an unfairly and/or erroneous light (mostly due to ignorance).
Illustration by Satoshi Kambayashi
Here is (printed here with permission) their letter –

LET’S BLAME MEXICO
From time to time I have been sending reflections of our experiences in Mexico to family and friends. This might be considered more of a diatribe than a reflection. Over the past few months the negative US press has been cranking out story after story portraying Mexico and its citizens in a negative light.

Actually our first awareness of the distortions occurred about 18 months ago during the high prices of gasoline in the US. Evidently, US citizens who lived along the border were driving into Mexico to purchase gasoline at around $2.70 a gallon. The articles warned US drivers that Mexican gas was dirty and that it would have disastrous results in their engines if used. At that point we had lived here for 8 months and had been regularly filling our car with Mexican gas, with no ill effects. Friends who had lived here for three years or longer reported the same….no problems. We became suspicious about the US news reports and discovered that the US oil companies were behind the promotion of the negative press. They wanted to keep the US customers buying their higher priced gasoline. The second piece of information which supports the reality of lies by the oil company propaganda machine is that 70% of all Mexican gasoline is refined in Houston. Pemex, the Mexican government’s oil company, ships most of its crude oil to Houston and then brings it back to Mexico. Were the oil companies implying that their refineries in Houston were producing dirty gas? I don’t think so.

This negative story was followed a few months later with a series of articles, including a number in the NY Times, about the tainted tomatoes that were causing illnesses in the US. Nearly every article blatantly stated that the tomatoes were from Mexico. It caused a ban on Mexican tomatoes being shipped to the US and other countries. It destroyed the tomato producers economic viability here. No one would buy their crop. Later it was quietly acknowledged that the tainted tomatoes were actually produced in the US.

The next negative stories involved the number of deaths near the border, suggesting that tourists were in danger in Mexico due to the war between the drug cartels and the military. In a village near Merida eight headless bodies were found. They were identified as drug dealers who were killed by a rival drug gang in Cancun and their bodies dumped near Merida, where some of the leaders of the rival gang lived. In reality there is a war here. In the past 18 months over 8,000 Mexican citizens have died as a result. The war is also between the cartels over territory and control of the supply lines……these supply lines developed after the US did such a good job shutting down the supply lines from Colombia which transported drugs by sea and air. The US market’s demand for illegal drugs is driving this. And the availability of the automatic assault weapons from the US gun dealers is supplying the drug cartels with their weapons and ammunition. The local citizens ask us about the prevalence of guns in the US. They don’t understand because citizens in Mexico are not allowed to own guns. This problem is a US problem, which George Bush ignored. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have publicly acknowledged that the US shares the blame, due to the demand for illegal drugs and the supply of assault weapons, which the US has done little to restrain. That resulted in the President and the Secretary of State being verbally attacked by Republican extremists as being weak and apologetic. Frankly, I believe they were merely being honest. A refreshing change from other politicians of recent memory. This morning on the CBS News we heard a US politician suggesting that the border with Mexico be closed. Sounds like shutting the barn door after the pigs have already escaped.

It is not my intention to deny the seriousness of the executions, murders, physical attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings. Yes, these things are happening and on a regular basis. If you are a member of the Mexican army or a member of a police force, you are a target. Federales and policemen wear bullet proof vests constantly because there is a constant fear for their lives. Rival drug gains target each other as well as the police, politicians, and soldiers. We have never felt in any danger personally but we do not attempt to buy or transport drugs. We do not hang out where these activities takes place. I feel much safer here than when I worked in Newark.

Now, the swine flu problem is providing the latest opportunity to blame Mexico. I suspect that we will discover that this strain of the influenza problem did originate in Mexico. However, the descriptions we read in the US papers, including the Times, do not reflect our experiences.

Mexico is blamed for allowing this virus to spread. Mexico is blamed for a slow response. Mexico is blamed for being a dirty country. Let me report what we see here “on the ground,” as the news reporters say when talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our schools have been closed for a week and will remain closed for another week. (This includes the Yucatan, while the closest documented case of swine flu is 800 miles away.) All gatherings of more than thirty people have been banned, forcing the cancellation and postponement of events, banks have closed, business are requiring their employees who deal directly with the public to wear masks. The local Mexican League baseball team, Los Leones, are still playing their games, but in front of empty stadiums, televised with piped-in crowd noises. Even the mascot was wearing a mask.

At the grocery store yesterday, the baked items which are normally sitting on trays, such as our favorite chocolate donuts, were under plastic protection. The clerks were all wearing masks, even in Blockbuster. The amount of traffic on the streets has dropped considerably; it almost feels like a Sunday. A number of restaurants are closed. The tourist trade is disappearing. People are canceling trips. The economic impact of this will be devastating to an already fragile economic system. Costs here are rising. Some food items have doubled in the time we have been here.

Yes, I am defensive about Mexico. Having existed for decades beneath the imposing shadow of the US and other industrialized nations, Mexico seemed to be developing into a responsible democratic nation. There was an emerging middle class, which is now threatened. There was a rising standard of living. I am concerned about the continuing impact of all these events on the future here. The real estate market has dried up. There are no buyers. Our architect, who in 2008 was awarded the Mexican Architectural Digest prize for best renovation, had 12 properties being renovated at one time. Now he has one renovation and one new house that his parents are building.

After all this negativity let me conclude with one humorous and perhaps positive story. The previous governor of the Yucatan, a member of the PAN political party, had built a brand new specialty hospital. It was scheduled to be opened in the fall of 2007. It was a wonderfully designed building. In the 2007 election, the new governor was from the PRI political party. She decided that the new hospital would not be opened. PRI did not want to give any positive publicity the opposition party. (Imagine this: one political party blocking the efforts of the other political party, in spite of the needs of the people. How can politicians in a so-called civilized country act that way? …. Uh,…oh,…. excuse me,….. never mind.) Anyway, the new hospital was recently, finally, opened. So I guess there are some evidences of hope.

In the meantime, we wash our hands, stay away from public gatherings, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and wait………and we still read the Times but with a suspicious eye.
Richard and Leslie

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About Debi in Merida

I moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado USA to Merida, Yucatan, MX in January 2006. I love to read, garden, travel, and hang out with friends.
This entry was posted in Guest Blog, Mexico Bashing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Guest Blog – LET’S BLAME MEXICO

  1. Malcolm says:

    Hi Deb and Tom,

    This would be a great article to run on The Truth About Mexico, which has yet to address the “swine flu” mess. Do you think Richard and Leslie would be interested in letting it get reprinted, there?

    thanks

  2. Tom and Debi says:

    Chef Ana
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am checking yours and am looking forward to digging in to it deeper.
    I, We, expats have such a different perspective than Mexicans on the issue of USofA and USofM relations. We from the USofA are so accustomed to the sense of power and privelege that we forget or don’t remember what it was like to be the smaller or more timid kid on the playground.
    I love the USofA, I am proud to be from the USoA, I am pleased with all that we can/have done for others, BUT I am also concerned for how ‘Powerful’ we now think we are. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Thank you for your input.
    Debi

  3. Tom and Debi says:

    Bob, Thanks for your comment. I too feel so much safer here. Not just in everyday things, but in in regards to government – I feel the US Govt has gotten so involved in trying to control us that we are in imminent danger of loosing all freedoms. Boy is that a post all by itself, but a bit scary to think about posting.

    Chrissy, The media is a truely powerful and scary mass. I feel they are behind this current H1N1 ‘SCARE’. It’s a flu for chrisakes. It’s a frickin flu. And affecting so many fewer people than a common cold, yet people are freaking out…

    Paul, Yeah, who knew Richard had it in him (just kidding Richard).

    MCM, Thank you so much for your perspective. I know your Spanish is so much better than Richard’s or mine. So what you get from the news and the Diario is way more comprehensive than what we do. So I really appreciate you filling in the weak spots.

    Gracias a todos
    Debi

  4. Deb and Tom: More and more expats and Mexicans are confronting the inaccurate view of Mexico portrayed in the US media. I have been trying in my small way to contradict media reports that all of Mexico is “under siege.” I live in the idyllic village of Tepoztlan, Morelos where the only things flying overhead are excessive amount fireworks! As a Mexican, sometimes I feel that Mexicans have a tendency to turn the other cheek when it comes to the U.S. We are afraid to disturb an otherwise beneficial relationship so we remain quiet when misleading or blatantly incorrect stories appear. That can’t go on anymore. We have lost so much this year with the security issue of the border being applied to all of Mexico and now the flu (which by the way is non-existent here in Tepoztlan). In any event, blogs like this one need to be read and disseminated to reach others who may have misconceptions about Mexico and the life that we all enjoy. Keep up the good work! I will be writing about this issue as well from a Mexican’s perspective on my blog at chefana.blogspot.com.

  5. mcm says:

    I enjoyed reading Richard & Leslie's post — and generally agree with what they say.
    A couple of things did strike me as a bit simplistic, or at least incomplete —
    the “drying up” of the Merida real estate market more probably reflects the world-wide economic downturn, than a Mexico-bashing campaign. Or, the economic situation is AT LEAST an important factor.
    The HRAE (REgional High Speciality Hospital) was built with FEDERAL funds, not state funds. While it is very true that politics has had a lot to do with problems in opening, it's not quite as simple as Richard and Leslie explain. There were also equipment problems, union problems (these did appear to be largely “political”), and general problems with unfinished work, and major cost overruns. The HRAE seems to be gradually coming into full use (a slow start was planned initially, in any event).
    My point — politics does have alot to do with how things work here, but it's not always simple or straightforward, and there are usually valid points on both sides.

    Again — I enjoyed the post, I just have a bad habit of contrariness….

  6. Paul says:

    Thanks for posting this, Deb and Tom. It was very well written and seemed to be quite accurate in its claims. Viva Mexico!

  7. Reason 53 that we are moving to Mexico. I am so dissapointed in my fellow Countrymen. Especially the media who is driving all this nonsense. I stand with you all and shout the truth!

  8. Bob Mrotek says:

    Deb and Tom,

    I think that Richard and Leslie’s letter is brilliant and courageous. They tell it like it is much better than I possibly could. I feel much more free and secure here in Mexico than I ever did in the United States. I eat better, I sleep better, I get better health care, and my overall state of being is better. I think that the people who live in the United States are being brainwashed by corporate propaganda. When I go back to visit I can feel the tension crackling in the air. I am hoping that the Obama administration ushers in a new era of honesty in both the government and the marketplace. My hat is off to those who have the courage to speak out. I love Mexico and I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to know this great country and her people. Thank you Deb and Tom, Richard and Leslie. You are great role models.

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