Travel Advisory

U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Violence by criminal elements affects many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas.

U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (cuota) roads, which are generally more secure. It is preferable for U.S. citizens to stay in well-known tourist destinations and tourist areas of the cities with more adequate security, and provide an itinerary to a friend or family member not traveling with them. U.S. citizens should refrain from displaying expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.

During violent demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas.

Yet another Security Advisory in Mexico from the U.S. Embassy, just days after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Three persons were killed this afternoon in a Kansas City shopping mall. Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun was mugged this weekend outside of her Chicago home.

Starbucks, Target and a state technical university don’t seem like such safe places these days.

Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer thinks the U.S. has reached the point where it should bag the travel warnings for foreign countries – or at the very least, include itself in those warnings. Read on.

The New Zealand Herald reported that foreign tourists fear U.S. officials more the terrorists or criminals.

Something’s sadly wrong. And RFID-enabled passports, fingerprinting all ten fingers and all ten toes of visitors, and building a wall along the southern border aren’t the answer.

Saying Sorry

Miami criminal defense lawyer Brian Tannebaum
muses on networking and business relationships at Miami Business Network Blog ,
offering up uncommon sense laced with a dose of humor.

You don’t have to be in Miami or even in business
to benefit from his advice:

"Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest

"It’s a sad, sad

And it’s getting more and more absurd"

When you’ve offended, upset, angered, or hurt someone, and you give a crap,

You don’t say:

[1] I never meant to offend, upset, anger, or hurt you.(what you meant to do is meaningless);

[2] Can’t you take a joke?

[3] I’m sorry that you feel that way. (i.e., this is your problem)

[4] It wasn’t my intent to offend, upset, anger, or hurt you. (your intention
is irrelevant)

[5] Call me when you’re ready to talk. (i.e. when you get over this, I’m here)

You do say:

[1] I’m sorry.

[2] I’m really sorry.

[3] I’m very sorry I offended, upset, anger, or hurt you, how can I fix this?

[4] If true: "I’m sorry, this relationship is important
to me, you are important to me, I want to fix this now, and I’m going to do
everything I can to fix it."

Last thing:

How many times do you say sorry?


Once by e-mail or phone, then again if it doesn’t work. The third time is in
writing, by hand.

Last, last thing:

If there is something you can do to "fix it," beyond the
"sorry," do it, now.


Cold Blood at Blacksburg

August 1, 1966. I’d spent the afternoon cleaning the pool,
which is how I spent most of that summer, when I heard the news about Charles
Whitman. Only two weeks before, Richard Speck killed eight student nurses in Chicago, so mass killings
were still in the news. And later that year would be released Truman Capote’s
In Cold Blood, a story of a murdered family in rural Kansas. Coupled with the nightly Vietnam
death tolls, it was a bloody year. When he returned home from the office that
day, my father brought out his 1940-something University of Texas
yearbooks, and we looked up the tower where the former Marine and Eagle Scout Whitman
picked off his forty-six victims, killing fifteen of them.

Only four years later KentState
became a turning point in my college career when the National Guard opened fire
on unarmed students, killing four and injuring nine.

Virginia Tech had its defining moment this morning, and
colleges and universities won’t be in the same for years to come. Why wasn’t
the university put under lockdown, many asked. Just how do you lock down a
major university, short of instantly building a wall topped off with concertina
wire, installing gun turrets, and armed patrols? And doesn’t that defeat the
idea of a campus? Metal detectors and ID cards may work to shield buildings,
but how could they protect the commons? Whitman loaded up his arsenal on a
dolly and gained entrance to a secure area by flashing his duly-issued
identification. Do you think for a minute that the armed and uniformed National
Guard would’ve flashed special badges to access the Kent State

Kinky Friedman went on to pen and sing The Ballad of Charles
Whitman, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sung about Kent State.
Tonight someone is probably writing a song about Virginia Tech. Books and
movies will follow, and it will become a folk memory reflected upon forty years
from now.

But something more important will arise out of today’s
events. There’ll be the usual hue and cry over gun control, blaming foreigners
and foreign terrorists, ridiculously cumbersome regimens for police action
imposed, and campuses will come to resemble maximum security penal facilities. No
one will seem to recall that the Beltway sniper of 2002 did his work out in the
open, and no one will particularly notice that shopping malls are filled with
easy prey.

And college campuses won’t be one whit safer.



Lost and Found in Mexico

Years ago, Town and Country
ran a story about San Miguel de Allende,
featuring the town’s beautiful people dressed in the kind of garb that people
who’re featured in Town and Country tend to wear. They’re not the people who
read People, you know. One line mentioned something about the passionate people
of San Miguel, forging an image I could never erase from my mind.

A weeklong vacation convinced psychotherapist Caren Cross
and her husband to move to San Miguel de Allende. Within six months, she wound
down her practice, and they shed themselves of thirty years’ worth of
belongings, sold their house and moved. She figured she’d have a small
practice, work a few hours a day, and counted upon catching up on
long-forgotten reading, but within three years, a recurring fantasy of making a
documentary film hit her. She wanted to explore why all these foreigners were
living in San Miguel de Allende. It’s been six years since her move to Mexico, and her documentary Lost and Found in Mexico has just been released.



Colorful footage of the town’s Centro Historico predominates
in this film, where Cross interviews American expatriates about what brought
them to the town and how they feel about their new surroundings.

Jim Karger,
who had been a high-powered lawyer in Dallas, said he knew from his first day
of practice in 1976 that he’d made a serious vocational error, but he plodded on
for twenty-five more years. He and his wife Kelly lived in a McMansion straight
out of House and Garden, but one too many bourbons one night led him to ask “Is
this it?” They sold the house, moved to San Miguel de Allende, and suffered
queries about whether he’d gone insane. There were times he wanted to go back,
missing the perks of his old life, but after a year or so he grew to accept
himself as something other than his career. He said that he knew if he went
back he’d end up putting in another twenty-five years and having “He was really
a good lawyer” on his tombstone. San Miguel de Allende changed his relationship
with money, he added, because there was no longer the need to eat out six
nights a week, drive a fancy automobile, and travel to exotic places to relieve
career stress. He thought it telling that none of the people he worked with
have ever visited him. (I guess I should feel honored, because even though no one in Mexico particularly cares that I once was Martindale-Hubbell A-V and one of the Best Lawyers in America, my lawyer friends from the U.S. still visit me.)

Susan McKinney came to San Miguel to write a book eleven years ago, met a cute young Mexican
boy, got pregnant, and stayed on to raise her family. She said she was
searching for a lot of things, attributing the male culture of her childhood to
making her feel like a nobody because of her gender.

After her husband of ten years committed suicide, Nancy
Hooper came to San Miguel to raise her daughter.

All of the expatriates interviewed remarked upon how San
Miguel de Allende had changed their lives. Could their lives just as easily
have been transformed had they quit their old jobs – as a Navy nurse, lawyer,
Levi-Strauss employee, psychotherapist, manager of Latin artists – and packed up
and moved to Aiken, South Carolina or Bariloche? Spiritual
healer Don Jesus would disagree, saying that San Miguel is algo magnetico, and Mayan healer Roland Torikian would agree with
that assessment. The expats all cite the calmness and awareness of their town, the
sociability of the people, and a live-and-let-live attitude.

The expatriates seem to relish living among a broader range of
people, from all age groups and fields. One man likened the experience to jury
duty, meeting people he’d never normally meet. The Mexicans portrayed in the
film were selling flowers, butchering beef, cutting up poultry, caning chairs,
and selling fruit. The absence of Mexicans sharing the same station, education
and income level of the expatriates was noticeable.

Cross confesses that she had no close Mexican friends, just
acquaintances she sees on the streets. She seemed comfortable with that,
recognizing “I’m no longer part of the U.S. culture, and I’m not part of
the Mexican culture.” It’s clear that she feels relaxed, comfortable with and
positive toward her surroundings. She says that she feels free, because being
connected to neither culture allows her to be herself. What she doesn’t state
is that she is part of a culture – an expatriate culture.

The themes of Lost and Found in Mexico aren’t unique to San Miguel de Allende. Many expatriates who move to Mexico articulate the same ideas about finally
finding a place they fit in, feeling out of place in the U.S., marveling at the color and
styles of the indigenous folk. And probably just as many are noncommittal about
where they live, leading hum-drum, everyday existences highlighted by a trip to Costco or Superama. Some of them didn’t move to Mexico to find or repair
themselves. Some of them moved here, because they couldn’t afford to live a
quality existence in the Old Country. Some may simply harbor a passion for bolillos. For every expatriate, there’s
a story behind the move, and frankly most of them aren’t that exciting.

A kind and gentle documentary, Lost and Found in Mexico doesn’t pretend to be the final word on
expatriates in Mexico,
but it’s an entertaining and compelling excursion into the lives of those who
lovingly call this place home.


Blowing Your Enemies (Up)

This evening thousands in this country will watch their
enemies go up in smoke. The idea came from blowing up effigies of Judas
Iscariot, the apostle who ratted out Jesus. Old Judas, long reviled, has now
become a hero.  It only took two thousand years to figure out
that Judas wasn’t such a bad guy after all.


And so it was off to Morelia’s Centro Historico this afternoon to buy a paper-mache Judas, pre-loaded with
explosives. In past years, beyond the usual devilish figures were effigies of
Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Osama bin Laden, or just about anyone anybody sought to
blast into smithereens. I got there too late. All that were left were the
downtrodden devils no one else seemed to want and the Cruz Azul ,
the Mexican futbol team that rivals the Monarcas Morelia. Those
blue-and-white clad devils weren’t worth blowing up.

“You can simply write the name of your enemy on any of
these,” the vendor suggested. At the time, that didn’t seem like a reasonable
solution, but now that I’m back home, I wish I had.

Truth is, what I wanted was a Dick Cheney or a George Bush
to reign over the entrance of my house. I wouldn’t blow those guys up.

Internet, Beaches and Abortion

The Distrito Federal, which many call Mexico
City to differentiate it from the Republic of Mexico and the State of Mexico, is the
bellwether for the rest of the country. Well, except for how it votes, but we’d
just rather not think about that. The D.F.’s got everything that New York City does and
more. On second thought, I’d really rather not think about how New York votes either.

Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard has signed a contract with a Chinese company to offer
wireless Internet to all residents of this megalopolis. We’re talking about a
country that’s never been as Internet-hungry as its northern neighbor.

And if that’s not enough, Mexico City denizens
who can’t leave the Capital for someplace else can always frequent one of the
urban beaches
established this year and modeled after those in Paris and Rome and probably Queens.

If you have money to spend, don’t have time to fly off to El
Otro Lado, and need something wrapped in a signature blue box with a white bow,
there’s the new Tiffany boutique at El Palacio de Hierro.

But let’s talk about abortion now. Legislation is afloat in Mexico City and Congress
to legalize abortions up to the 14th week. Right now, abortion is
available only under very limited circumstances, e.g. rape, mortal danger to
the mother and incest. Obviously, this has the Catholic Church hitting the
panic button, and the faithful are rallying the troops. As Roe v. Wade is chipped away in the U.S.,
will Mexico’s
liberalized abortion laws change the social landscape?


The Americans are Coming, The Americans are Coming

There’s a land rush, rivaled
only by the homesteaders heading off in 1889 to the Oklahoma plains, of Americans heading off to Mexico.

Writing in Dissent
magazine, Miami University
professor Sheila Croucher reflects on what’s going in San Miguel de Allende, in "They Love Us Here": American Migrants in Mexico.

Kent Patterson, editor of Frontera NorteSur, analyzes the
same piece using Puerto Vallarta as an example, in his article Gringlandia – The U.S. Migrant Boom Hits Mexico. But what both of these commentators forget is that the
interest of foreigners in Mexico extends beyond the traditional beach venues, Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende to other areas of the country.

Morelia doesn’t get mentioned nearly as
often, but it’s a strong contender in the expat market. It’s not doing handstands
to attract foreigners, and that’s part of its appeal.