Mar 27, 2007

Catemaco abortion

The Vatican, which is a tiny little country in Italy and supposedly the seat of worldwide catholic hierarchy, is again messing with Mexico, after keeping its mouth shut for several hundred years. Previous Vatican adherents constructed most of those lovely churches across Mexico and none of the roads and in later years were subject to extermination campaigns.

The issue at present is abortion, which as usual avoids the male oriented issue of genocidal masturbation.

Mexico over the last 20 years has made fantastic progress in its efforts to control its population explosion, including unsanctioned monthly infertility injections, standard birth control information and a plethora of other prophylactics.

In the meantime, Mexico has also constructed a bunch of roads.

At present, in the Mexican legislature, a proposal to legitimatize abortion is being discussed, and that is thoroughly upsetting Vatican adherents, who only recently saw pro - homosexual laws being enacted in Mexico. The Vatican is now on the war path.

South East Coast of Catemaco

The southeast Catemaco coast of Los Tuxtlas is still "terra incognito".

Although only a few miles away, (as a Mexican crow might fly), it is a hard 6 hour drive to reach the area from Catemaco - or any other major city in the area. The faster southern section of the coast, near Laguna del Ostion, is now sprucing up with an in progress bridge to connect to Coatzacoalcos. The northern section is still the step child of Veracruz road builders.

Although riddled with presences of prehispanic population, the area encompassing the north of the municipio of Mecayapan is in now a sparsely populated part of Catemaco.
The area was settled via the Mexican land give away programs in the 1960's, and has developed into an ecological disaster zone. Occupying the flanks of the Sierra Santa Marta mostly still starving peasants have shredded the environment of most any tree worth its peso and have substituted black and brown mobile cattle.

On a recent venture investigating remaining parrot species in the the area above coastal Arrecifes, my faithful truck blew a transmission seal. Perhaps there are 4x4 tow trucks in other parts of the world but in this location the only option was a tractor pull down some nighmare slopes.

Instead I opted for the solution most inhabitants of the area have employed for 50 years and imported mechanics via ocean (gulf) going launch from Sontecomapan near Catemaco.
The effort apparently was so impressive, the Arrecifes community sent me an invitation to return to participate in its annual pachanga (celebration) on May 3rd.
So now we are planning an expedition!

Personally I will allow my unfaithful truck to return to the area while lesser wimps will charter boats from the Sontecomapan embarcadero for the 1 hour ride to Arrecifes. There are no accomodations in the community built upon a bluff above the coastal beaches, and camping gear is required.

The open charter boats seat about 12, and so far we are 18. Two years ago, 6 others drowned on the same voyage. To optimize charter costs we need another 6 to fill the second lancha. Email me if you want to participate.

Mar 19, 2007

Catemaco baptism

Gunfire woke me at 4:00 am in beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz.

So, instead of returning to sleep, I checked the Catemaco News and read about a vague acquaintance being kidnapped, and a few police officers being gunned down near Veracruz City.
By the time dawn broke, the earlier gunfire had turned into a Catemaco police standoff, involving federal, state and municipal police forces trying to dislodge a drunk brujo (witch) from his home just because he decorated a local police vehicle with a few bullet holes.

But it was such a gorgeous day. The first sign of spring after a long drawn out winter full of north winds and freezing Catemacao temperatures of around 70 degrees F (19c).

So we baptized my Popoluca's first grandson and lunched with some family and friends on delicious barbacoa in a restaurant overlooking the laguna.

Upon our return to casa, we found a burglar hiding under my bed. He was just a young inexperienced thief who unfortunately fell several times while we caught him. The resulting turmoil attracted a full fledged street party of men with clubs, the local press, police and inquisitive neighbors.

And some enjoyed the left-over baptismal cake.

Added note: A few days later, the kidnappers killed their victims, and the drunk brujo manipulated the Mexican legal system, and is now suing the police chief to get his car repaired.

Mar 9, 2007

Rich Mexico

Mexico has 7 of them, including the third richest person in the world. The rest are just the usual bunch of oligarchs monopolizing most of the business in Mexico.

#003 Carlos Slim (MEX) 49,000 billion
#158 Alberto Bailleres (MEX) 5,000
#172 Ricardo Salinas Pliego (MEX) 4,600
#194 Jerónimo Arango (MEX) 4,300
#458 Emilio Azcárraga Jean (MEX) 2,100
#557 Isaac Saba Raffoul (MEX) 1,800
#583 Lorenzo Zambrano (MEX) 1,700
#618 Alfredo Harp (MEX) 1,600
#98,075,440 Alberto Ortega 0

From Huffington post:
Alberto,43, Mexico City, Mexico. Net worth: a pair of pet crickets.

Alberto comes from Michoacan where he raised corn on the family milpa, as his ancestors had for centuries. Post-NAFTA, hardscrabble Al couldn't compete with US-Congress-subsidized corn flooding Mexico, courtesy of Archer Daniels Midland. (Best known ADM partner Donald Tyson tragically fell OFF the current Forbes 400 Richest this year: couldn't make that $1 billion mark boo-hoo-hoo!).

Alberto moved to Mexico City where he lives in a drain with wife Concepcion; together they make a peso a week picking over waste at the local Wal-Mart de Mexico, thus trimming disposal costs for the Walton family (total net worth $78 billion, #6-#11 Forbes 400) and fellow Mexican Jeronimo Arango (net worth $4.3 billion, world's #194 richest man).

When Al has a nickel to his name he bets on the ponies, boosting off-track mogul Emilio Azcarraga Jean's bottom line (Net worth $2.1 billion, world's #458 richest man) and dreams of owning a share in a cellphone so he can keep in touch with Concepcion when she has to turn a trick, putting more dough in the pocket of Mexican Tel-com Bandito Carlos Slim Helu (at $49 billion net worth, world's #3 richest man - and that's in dirt-poor Mexico!)

Mar 4, 2007

Catemaco South Coast

Catemaco and the volcanic Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz have so many distinct personalities that at times, because of ease of information access, many aspects are overlooked.

I spent the last week running away from Catemaco brujo-schism rediscovering the forgotten isolated coast of the Los Tuxtlas fronting the Sierra Santa Marta and Volcano San Martin Pajapan to Laguna del Ostion. Touristically, this may rank as one of the least explored areas in Mexico because of its difficulty of access.

At most any point along almost 50 miles, this coast is 40, and usually more, miles from the nearest highway. There is no major city anywhere near these beaches claiming proprietary relationships. All these beaches are isolated, "unspoiled", lacking palapas serving Corona beers, fried fish or sunburned tourists.

Seen from offshore, at any point the entire coast is breathtakingly beautiful.
The stretch from Catemaco´s La Barra to El Carrizal is a cattle rustlers´s no-man´s land, accessible only by a boat towed one car ferry.
The stretch from El Carrizal to Los Arrecifes is so wild, even cattle rustlers cannot find it. From Los Arrecifes to Perla del Golfo, once a day Gulf going fishing boats leave Catemaco's Sontecomapan, catering mostly to the survival habits of those localities in terms of fresh produce and needed supplies.

Further south, all beach communities are served by a backbreaking road leading to the provincial capital of Tatahuicapan, population 6,723, many hours away, unless the roads are washed out.

Near Laguna del Ostion, the touristic situation improves somewhat, with an almost paved highway to the Gulf of Mexico from Tatahuicapan, via Pajapan to several isolated beach communities, terminating at Jicajal, a sea food eating oasis, for visitors from Minatitlan, 50 miles away.

That same road, in the opposite direction leads to Peña Hermosa, the only publicized Santa Marta beach facility, promoting government bungalows and an anemic turtle watching program.
Almost every piece of this 50 mile long coast is literally untouched and cluttered with driftwood.

Catemaco Ejidos

VERY SIMPLISTICALLY - The ejido land ownership concept inherently stopped Mexico from becoming a first world nation and reinforced its servitude to its northern colossus.Very basically, ejido means a conglomerate of people joined in a communal effort, owning common community property and small parcels of personal property. Aside from other socialistic endeavors, this particular effort had its roots in the promises of the Mexican revolution of 1917 representing a revolt against the amassment of land wealth by individual Mexican owners. Basically the idea was to confiscate large landholders lands and distribute it to landless peasants. At present estimates place ejido ownership on more than half of Mexico's arable land.

(the ejido system was and is fairly complex and I would suggest you study it before believing everything I say here.)

The ejido system was destined to fail primarily because of inheritance problems, whereby each original landowner, potentially, would be diminishing the original property to accommodate inheritors. Meanwhile ejido laws were changed so many times, that finally, the Mexican government surrendered, and permitted ejido holders to sell their property.

Nevertheless there are still thousands of ejidos owning thousands of hectares with a very limited number of ejiditarios (actual property owners) and many more disenfranchised family members or workers, working the ejido land in a more or less tenured system. Those landless ejido members have provided many of the illegal border crossers to the USA.

A less debated aspect of the creation of ejidos is their direct contribution to the ecological destruction of Mexico. After the Mexican government became stymied at giving away private property it had to attack the wealth of the public domain and began giving away unexplored areas.

The area of Los Tuxtlas was one of those victims, and starting in the early 1950's, thousands of land hungry peasants were assigned property rights in virgin forests.
The outcome is now painfully obvious with less than 10 per cent of the the original forest surface remaining in Los Tuxtlas. That is probably not much different than the development of Miami, Florida, USA.

EXCEPT, in this case the outcome was government instituted, and as of today, that outcome still obliges the Mexican government entities to support the mayhem it created, in areas more populated by tree rats than people, and each demanding basketball courts, health facilities, meeting halls and social welfare programs for population centers which a long time ago were wiped out in Texas and "other" first world places by the establishment of rural roads, capitalist market economy and the affordability of pickup trucks.

In Los Tuxtlas, the most obnoxious sign of the failure of this system is the condition of the Los Tuxtlas coast. Dozens of ejidos occupy this zone, each more intent than the other to fatten another cow. Meanwhile, municipal service is almost absent, the consolidated strength of the cattle industry has no outlet and it takes a day's travel to sell a cow. Tourism is nonexistent.
Of course, most individual properties, until lately, are extraordinarily fractured and economically dysfunctional on an early 20th century level, where milkers still think that electric milkers sicken their cows.

Meanwhile the area supports a relatively large, almost illiterate population, living on or near the Mexican minimum wage of less than 5 dollars a day, which, if you remember a previous comment, are clamoring for municipal and social services which at the current rate, may be provided in the next century.