Hitler and the Family Jewels

The Nearly Perfect Doberman went to his first socialization class, his veterinarian having rather pointedly urging him on after seeing some signs of antisocial behavior. Even though he’d already been through canine military school, nearly every dog groomer in town had politely asked us never to darken their doors again.

Canine socialization was more than just a little intimidating for the young boy-dog. A Pug who resembled the group’s leader was in charge. The Golden Retrievers kept getting in his face like ebullient Texas cheerleaders, the older Labs were aggressive toward him, and he just couldn’t stand the Salsa the Border Collie. He took a likening to a pleasant and handsome young red male Doberman.

The first point of instruction was that we were to give our dogs commands in English. This is Mexico, and we’re supposed to speak English to our dogs? German would be all right, too, the trainer explained. And all along I’d been teaching Spanish to the pup, trying to make him fit in and understand others.

The red Doberman’s owner, a boy of about twelve years, asked if the Nearly Perfect Doberman was hembra or macho. Only months before, three veterinarians had turned down my request to neuter the Doberboy, acting if I’d suggested some kind of crime against humanity, destroying the bloodline and forever robbing the Nearly Perfect Doberman of his essential dogliness. Finally, the vet who’d studied at Cornell agreed.

My boy’s exterior plumbing clearly revealed his gender. “Well duh. He’s macho,” I responded. With no small amount of disdain.

“Was he in an accident?” the boy asked, pointing to the spot where the family jewels once hung.

“Of course, not.” I really didn’t want to pursue the topic further.

“So, what’s his name?”


“My dog’s named Hitler.”

I blanched. Hitler? For a nice mascota?

“A strong dog needs a strong name that people will fear,” he explained, adding with no small amount of disdain and some measure of authority that Hitler was actually a relatively common name for Dobermans. And that there was even a Rottweiler in town named Osama Bin Laden.

I could only imagine inviting little Hitler onto a soft dog bed, buying dog treats for sweet little Hitler, worrying about little Hitler as he aged into a feeble, old little Hitler. The beloved little Hitler, family pet. But maybe if you say Hitler enough, it loses its impact. “Sit, Hitler.” “Down, Hitler.” “Come, Hitler.” Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. Mein Schicklgruber.

Goodman met up with a new canine pal – an enormous English Bulldog named Mohammed.

At the next week’s class, the mother of the fresa came over and told me that she’d explained to her son the quaint habits of Norteamericanos who routinely neuter their canines. I’m not taking any chances. Next time, I’ll get Neuticles for my pack partner.

Sending the Wrong Message

Everyone’s reimbursed for Banff.

Honey, I can do lunch at T.G.I.Friday’s around one.

Oh baby, oh baby, you make me so hot. I want you NOW.

All right, you did it again. You obviously didn’t learn your lesson from the last time you pulled that stunt. It’s all over, bucko. You’re toast. You know perfectly well what you did. You went off and sent that email to the wrong person, said the wrong thing to the right person, or did something perfectly foolish with email. Your face is red. I can see that right from my side of the monitor. You close down your email program, shut off the computer, and skulk away, wondering if your reputation has been damaged beyond repair. All the disclaimers in the world aren’t going to get you out of this one. You’re on email probation now.

Almost everyone has distributed a personal message to the wrong person at one time or another. Those who haven’t are merely waiting for their turn to come. It’s practically inevitable. If you haven’t already done so, you will. I have.

Ross Kodner calls it the “oh-no-second,” that flick of a lapse between your brain and your mouse that sends the unstoppable. You call it disaster.

A quick hit on “send,” and before your finger levitates a single millimeter from the mouse, you realize that a personal messages is now zooming through space to the screens of unintended eyes across the world. There’s no postmaster from whom the missent missive can be retrieved. You can only dream that the recipient will think that an evil someone spoofed your address.

PRIVILEGED – ATTORNEY CLIENT CONFIDENTIAL began one lawyer’s email to a client, outlining strategies not meant for the eyes and ears of others. But a slip of a click led the message to distribution to a mailing list of over a thousand lawyers. The errant lawyer immediately caught her mistake, and sent forth a second message, bearing the subject line “Emergency! Do Not Open, and Delete if You Do,” confessing her sin of sending confidential mail to the list, asking recipients to delete the mail, not to forward it, and to treat it otherwise with the respect usually reserved for toxic waste. And then she followed up with a plea to the list manager, asking that the missent missive be wiped from the archives and offering to pay all expenses associated with its removal. The lawyer did all that could reasonably be done to control the damage on a Sunday morning.

“Judge Juan Fulano is big fat idiot and his breath stinks” your message read. You intended to send it to Lisa Loopner, but it went off to Lisa Loopinski instead, because you relied upon the autocomplete feature to dredge up all of the Lisas in your address book, letting it finish the address after you’d typed in L-i.

No autocomplete for you. You used it, and it abused you. Give it up. All the careful keyboarding in the world won’t save you from its dangers. Jim Calloway, Oklahoma State Bar Association Practice Management Advisor, describes how to disable autocomplete in Outlook at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog. In Eudora, it’s as simple as Tools | Options | Auto-completion.

Eudora also has the BossWatch feature, which warns users before sending email to selected addresses.

Email encryption is widely available and easier to use than ever. So, why aren’t more lawyers taking the time to encrypt email? Or does the problem lie with the recipient who can’t figure out how to use the Captain Magic decoder ring?

It’s possible to prevent those potentially humiliating situations.

• Let the mail season at least a few minutes before sending. Disable Immediate Send, sending off email after enough time has elapsed for the ink to dry. A few minutes isn’t going to make a great difference in the grander scheme of things. Even a couple of hours.
• Check, check and double-check what goes out. Oh, but lawyers are always in such a rush.
• Slow down.
• Edit messages carefully, paying proper attention to grammar and punctuation, and verify the recipient’s email address more than with a cursory glance.
• If you still can’t trust yourself, use a completely different email address for mailing list mail than you use for important client mail.
• Hire an armed guard to monitor your email habits.

When your fingers fly off in the wrong direction, it’s not the end of the world. Recall the message, hoping against hope. Apologize and mean it. Take that pledge to be careful the next time seriously. Realize that everyone makes mistakes.

On the other hand, there’s always Paraguay. Change your name, undergo some serious plastic surgery, enter the Witness Protection Program, and move to the unnamed city populated by bus drivers who’ve fled the scene of horrifying accidents in third world countries.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GP|Solo, receives her email at jjrose@jjrose.com in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. This column originally appeared in Technology eReport, published by the American Bar Association General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

Bombing Apatzingán

We’d finished a dinner of pescado blanco in Patzcuaro one Saturday evening not long after September 11, 2001, and the chisme turned to a joke circulating on the Internet that had the mayor of Apatzingán sending an urgent plea to President Bush, pleading “Es Apatzingán, no Afghanistan. Por favor no nos bombardee.” Wondering whether there was any truth to the buzz, we decided to go to Apatzingán the next day and look up the mayor.
Apatzingán, Apatzingán de la Constitución to be correct, is a point of pride, because that’s where the first constitution of Mexico was signed, back in 1814. Its fertile valley attracted the attention of Dante Cusi, who merits more posts in this blog when I find the time, almost a hundred years later. If you’ve ever eaten cantaloupe or watermelon or just about any kind of produce, the fruits of Apatzingán have touched your lips. By the by, Lázaro Cárdenas del Río developed this town, laying out broad avenues in this heart of the Tierra Caliente.

Apatzingán is not unlike California’s Central Valley or the Texas Rio Grande Valley. An honest, sweet land filled with hardscrabble lives, rich terrain, a mixed measure of poverty and prosperity, the kind of place that has no time for the effete and elites. In this truck-driving country marked by miles and miles of fields, the arts range all the way from sombreros to dancing horses and rustic harps and violins.

We met up with one of the town’s power brokers, and he showed off the Casa de la Constitución and drove us up the hill to the Santuario de la Virgen de Acahuato, towering over the valley below and practically revealing a view from the Pacific Coast all the way to Morelia. The Hotel Posada del Sol featured an enormous fountain pumping up sprays to rhythms and a lightshow, as well as an event center that was not only air-conditioned but also had a roof opening up to the stars. Just like Joe Wilson saw no yellowcake in Niger, I saw neither drug lords, meth labs nor bandoliered gunmen in Apatzingán.

But everyone just knows that it’s drug country.

In yesterday’s Día Siete ran an advertisement promoting the Valley of Apatzingán as a tourist destination, offering up two-night packages.

A war rages on in Apatzingán now, making Felipe Calderón a war-time president less than six months into his term, focusing public attention on this part of Mexico, where the Mexican military fights organized drug rings. Jorge Zepeda Patterson compares the situation to Baghdad. What’s going to happen in the Fresno of Mexico? I honestly do not know.

She’s Got to Have It

Five newspapers – LaVoz de Michoacán, Cambio de Michoacán, Provincia,
El Sol de Morelia, and La Jornada de Michoacán – publish daily in Morelia. At least three of then are available
at the local abarrote, and if I walked an extra block over to the plaza, I
could have my choice of even more at the newsstand. Or I could get in the car
and drive to the nearest intersection where newspapers are hawked between
stoplights. Sunday’s LaVoz, which contains the magazine Día Siete, often sells
out before I’m up and around on Sunday morning. So when a vendor knocked on my
gate last week, I up and subscribed again.

The vendor could only sell a week’s subscription, and he’d
come by and collect later. “Might be robbed,” he said.

Of course, I could’ve as easily dropped by LaVoz’ offices
and negotiated the subscription details, but the path of least resistance means
not having to look for parking. It’s just a matter of time before I make the
reasonable move of buying an entire year’s subscription at once.

Reading the local daily online just isn’t the same as spreading
out the paper version over coffee and leaning back on the loveseat or the
sitting out on the terrace, folding over some pages and occasionally tearing
out others. And then there’s the ritual of reading the paper in its proper
order: the front page, the paginas rojas (crime pages), and the social pages
absolutely must precede finishing the rest of the paper.

None of these papers will put The New York Times out of
business, but the New York Times almost never runs a story about Turicato or Tarecuato.
And it doesn’t carry Maitena. I don’t care if the Sunday newspaper is the Pulso de San Luis Potosior The Deseret Morning News, I’ve got to have it. The day’s just not right without the



Red Diaper Babies in Mexico

After World War II ended, many returning G.I.’s flocked to Mexico to study
under the G.I. Bill, but soon after there was another band of foreigners
finding welcome retreat in this country. The Red Scare, Joe McCarthy and the
Smith Act sent this group to Mexico
, in search of refuge. Diana Anhalt’s family was among them, moving to Mexico City in 1950.

She writes about their
experiences and those of others similarly situated in A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965.

At Archer Books, the book is downloadable. Gratis.

It’s a fascinating insight into the lives and times of those
who didn’t move to Mexico for life on the cheap amid swaying palm trees. Some stayed, and some left.


Creating Thresholds for Immigrants

The comments to The Oppenheimer Report on Latin America upset me, even
though I haven’t been resident in the United State for more than a
decade. Since no one’s asked me for my opinion, I’ll freely hand it out here:

The U.S.should give Mexican immigrants favored status. They are us, and we are them. And
let’s face it: most of the Mexican immigrants are going to have a rough time
meeting the merit-based criteria. Not only are they not possessed of doctoral
degrees, an overwhelming majority haven’t finished, much less started, high
school. But they have valuable contributions to make. And steps must be taken
to integrate them into Estadounidense culture and society, making them value
their admission to that country:

  1. Each immigrant would pay $3,500 USD. That’s just a tad over a coyote’s going rate.
  1. All  immigrants under the age of eighteen years who have not completed secundaria will make a good faith  effort toward attaining a G.E.D. (Secundaria
      is the Mexican equivalent of junior high school, but for many in this  country, it’s the terminus of their formal education. And completing secundaria in Mexico is roughly equivalent to a G.E.D. in the U.S.)
  1. All
      immigrants under the age of forty will be enrolled in a public service program, something like the National Guard or military reserves, contributing two weeks each year and a weekend each month for a period of two years. (Join the military, and you’ll get some extra points upon successfully completely a tour of duty, just like in the old days.)
  1. All  immigrants who cannot demonstrate an understanding of basic English will
    learn English.
  1. And  the final step will be learning civics. Yes, the good old-fashioned kind of classes and examination my dad took when he became an American citizen in the 1950’s.

We’re not talking about a particularly high threshold here. There
will be some would-be immigrants who’ll claim any threshold just isn’t fair,
who won’t want to put in the effort, and who would probably cry about their
loss of civil liberties, but that’s going to happen anywhere.

Legislation is like sausage: what goes in seldom resembles
the final product. It’s not something any reasonable person should watch being
made. And interesting little bits often sneak themselves in. I know: I managed
to sneak a change to a state divorce statute, a single word or phrase that I
thought was important at the time, to a bill something totally unrelated,
probably something concerning frozen pork bellies, back in the 80’s. It never
reached debate, and no one caught on until long after the bill was signed and
went into effect.

Luring the Chinese to Mexico

Each time I read about Michoacán’s Secretary of Tourism sending a delegation to China,
I was puzzled, thinking that if the state doubled the number of Chinese
tourists during any random year past, the number might just total twelve. But
Genovevo Figueroa Zamudio, who’s been serving in that post during the tenure of
Lazardo Cardenas Batel, is just about the brightest and most connected
politician this state has spawned, oh well, since….let’s just leave it as “in
these times.” He’s been governor, he’s been a senator, and he’s been the
ambassador to Argentina,
but he’s definitely no has-been.

Mexico’s wooing one billion Chinese tourists. We’ve been buying their goods for years,
and it’s time that the Chinese drop some hard currency on this country. All
things considered, that’s not a bad idea. Bring ’em on.

Will Beef Become the New Salmon?

Has a diet of chicken breast, fish and tofu created a hunger
for beef among red-blooded Americans? I’ve thought so for a long time, and now
the New York Times finally agrees.

It’s about time people came to their senses and gave up all
of that pusillanimous hand-wringing that kept them from indulging in what the
Western Hemisphere produces best – beef. Even life-long vegetarians are turning
the tide and engaging in their lust for honest red meat. Remember, May is
National Beef Month.

Marshmallows in Your E-mail

In 1920, bringing a Jell-O mold to a church supper marked the bearer as a sophisticate, because only those with refrigeration could do so. In the early days of online communication, everyone appended a favorite quote or ASCII art to the end of a signature. Doing so bore a mark of sophistication – that the sender possessed the ability to automatically include something special. 

Valuable information – the sender’s name, firm, address, phone number, e-mail address and URL for a home page – can be found in a signature, but frequently those signatures can become old and tired when repeated time after time after each post to a mailing list. Cute quotations and ruminations on the sender’s philosophy of life, along with ASCII art have fallen by the wayside, only to be replaced with pager and cell phone and VOIP numbers, efax and plain ‘ol fax numbers, alternate e-mail addresses, and everything short of the sender’s Dun & Bradstreet rating. 

I counted 181 words among 27 lines in one frequent correspondent’s signature – setting forth the dates and place of the poster’s schedule for the next year, all current and former professional board chairmanships, a reminder to read the poster’s columns in various publications, and three quotes. The only information that seemed to be missing was his height and weight.
In professional correspondence, it’s important to convey a certain amount of contact information, and publicizing the sender’s website is part of that. Even then a long and clever signature really isn’t necessary. A savvy e-mailer should check the default signature to make sure that the same old signature doesn’t automatically follow each and every e-mail.  Those long signatures convey as much information as maraschino cherries and marshmallows provide nutritional balance in gelatin mold. And both genuinely signal that the bearer’s really behind the times.

Take Robin, a lawyer practicing in Baltimore. Her signature includes the address and telephone number of her office, the URL for her websites, Cohan & West, P.C. and Qui Tam Online Network, and, because she’s concerned about the environment:

                    Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to.

She exercises enough restraint not to force that upon every e-mail message that she sends, so the icon and message don’t become worn out.

In the The Wall Street Journal, Katherine Rosman, in The Rise of MeMail, explores the alternatives available to users enchanted with Smileys, emoticons, and other crap who still want to convince the rest of the world that they’re amateurs and buffoons.

If You Must Ask How Much It Costs

One question I’m frequently asked is “How much does a reasonable abode cost in Mexico?” That’s sort of like asking “What’s a reasonably good color?”

At Global Property Guide, the ins and out of the real estate market throughout the planet are set forth in a standardized form, from prices per square meter in the premier city center to rental yields and price history.

Per square meter, Mexico’s less costly than Argentina and Brazil and more expensive than Peru and Colombia. But money goes farther in Argentina than in Mexico.

Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk

Deby Novitz is a Californian living in Buenos Aires for the three years last past. In TangoSpam: La Vida Con Deby, she writes about the differences between foreigners living in Bs As and the Porteños in body language and manner of greeting. We play the same game of Spot the Gringo here, and I imagine that expats do the world over.

Since moving here full-time a decade ago, those who knew me pre-Mexico say that my American accent has changed, identifying it as Valley. Even though I left Southern California right after high school, a time when “gag me with a spoon” hadn’t been coined and Moon Unit Zappa was still in diapers, that’s where I learned to speak English. There are some things we just can’t changed, no matter where we’re transplanted.

When Mexico Had a Monarch

Modern Mexico had a home-grown monarch in Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Arámburu, better known as Agustín I, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico, born and bred in Morelia, which was called Vallodolid at the time. He didn’t last out a year before abdicating. His wife died in Philadelphia, where she lived for 37 years since his execution in 1824. His son married an American woman, Alice Green, and they had an American-born child, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, who ended up teaching at Georgetown University.

The connection didn’t end there.

The line might’ve died out, but for the French Intervention, which placed one of the Habsburg-Lorraine scions in charge of Mexico a few decades later, making the man born as His Imperial and Royal Highness Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Prince Imperial and Archduke of Austria, Mexico’s next monarch — Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico.

C.M. Mayo at Madam Mayo fills in what happened next:

After eight years of marriage without having produced any children, Maximilian offered to make a son of his younger brother Archduke Karl Ludwig his Heir Presumptive. Charlotte herself, of course, would travel to Vienna to retrieve the child. The answer to that was a definitive no. And then Maximilian— or perhaps it was his confessor, Father Fischer — came up with a most original idea. Why not adopt the two-and-a-half year old grandson of Mexico’s Emperor Agustín de Iturbide? Iturbide had ended up before a firing squad in 1824, but his memory as Mexico’s Liberator and protector of the True Faith was still venerated by many Mexicans, above all, the conservatives, many of whom were beginning to lose with Maximilian, his reliance on a foreign army, and what they perceived as his distastefully liberal leanings. Charlotte herself lobbied the little boy’s parents, Angel, the second son of the Liberator, and his American wife, Alice, with visits and flowers. In one message to Maximilian, the empress reported, “I always press them to understand that if they do not accept all our terms, nothing will come of it for any of them”. In September of 1865, in exchange for the highest honors and a hefty financial settlement, the child was delivered to Chapultepec Castle. Nine days later, however, his mother, nearly out of her mind with grief, insisted that her child be returned to her care— at least in his infancy. Maximilian and Charlotte not only refused to receive her; Maximilian had her and her husband forcibly deported, leaving them free to raise a scandal in Washington and Paris, where they lobbied the American Minister in Paris, John Bigelow, who went, in his words, “to the very verge of official propriety” to help his countrywoman. To no avail — however, a year later, when Maximilian recognized he could no longer protect the child, he ordered him returned to his parents.

Read on.

But the story doesn’t end there

Mexican Music

Ask most people, at least those living outside of Mexico, what their idea of Mexican music is, and they’ll tell you that it sounds like a ranchero or the Jarabe Tapatio. Or that nice Jewish Boy from Los Angeles, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass.

The Happy Booker often writes about others’ music choices as the guest D.J., and she invited Sam Quinones, author of Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, to share his selections.

Now, even though Quinones is a fantastic writer, his tastes aren’t mine. So I wandered around to to see what C. M. Mayo, editor of Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion and Tameme had in mind.

I’m happy that neither of them mentioned Armando Manzanero, the Barry Manilow of Mexico.


Famous people who visit Morelia usually stay at one of the city’s better hotels, places like the <a Villa Montaña, Casa de la Loma, or for the ultimate in secluded privacy — La Casa de las Rosas. Morelia has no shortage of hotels of style and quality.

Last night a man who was once the topic of an article in Vanity Fair didn’t stay at one of those hotels. He spent the night at the home of one of his followers only blocks away from my house in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Morelia. Once known as Rafael Sebastian Guillen, the man whose public image was striking, evocative and serious slipped into the neighborhood unnoticed and without fanfare, the story buried in the 20th page of the morning paper. Clad in mufti, the military, government agents and security trucks patrolled the area in total stealth.

But then this is the kind of neighborhood where BMWs share the narrow streets with old cars and burros, the kind of place where the governor as well as the former mayor of Mexico City pass without a second glance.

A Gun-toting, Crooning Padre

He carries a gun and wears cowboy boots. He sings. He raises money for good causes, and he’s a man of action. And not incidentally, the cloth. Better known as Padre Pistolas, Alfredo Gallegos Lara is the cura of a parish church off in the farm country of Chucándiro, Michoacán. Taking the approach that he’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission, he’s always in some kind of hot water with the Archbishop. The bad boy of Catholic Church is unstoppable. You can’t help but like the guy who has his own website featuring a video and his music. Organized religion could do well with a few more Padre Pistolas.

Not Just Queen for a Day

The American public needs a queen. Not the kind of royal status we accord to pop stars and television anchors, merely rich folks, and politicians. Not even the Kennedys or the Bush line. Or the Cabots or the Lodges. I’m talking about people who don’t have to do anything but volunteer work, bless good works, wear goofy clothes and silly hats and always be in good taste, and whose lives are concerned about maintaining an adequate supply of asparagus forks while they advise and counsel. They don’t have to be particularly handsome or even very smart. That’s part of their charm.

The Brits have the right idea about these things, even if they are a tad odd in the way the speak the language, eat strange foods and get all upset over stuff like cropping dogs’ ears. Royalty are great for product endorsements. Who cares that the Queen of England doesn’t have a vote? I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t bother her one little bit. The Queen sets the standard for all that’s good and right with the world, bucking up when times are hard.

American efforts to mimic royalty just don’t come off right. Let’s take Queen for a Day, a 1950’s T.V. show which rewarded losers and the downtrodden with a crown, robe and gifts for the saddest story. The hausfrau with the most desperate story of a crippled son who stuck his tongue in the electrical outlet, a runaway husband who lived in an iron lung, and looming eviction from a trailer park would be awarded something like an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, a Maytag washer and a suite of living room furniture, just what she really needed. Homecoming queens and kings and Pork Producers’ Queens just don’t make the cut.

The closest the U.S. has to royalty are the presidential family, movie stars and television anchors, but their terms are short-lived. A few years or a single wrong move, and they’re toast. Yes, even the beloved Barbara Bush. I’d like her to be the Queen Elizabeth of the U.S. until her dying days.

Speaking of the Barbaras Bush, only the younger merited an invitation to tonight’s dinner at the White House. The Queen has visited the U.S. but four times during the past fifty years, and I think the Barbara Bush who wasn’t a Yale graduate should’ve been invited. But then I see that poor Jenna, too, was left off the guest list.

Birthday Suits at Dawn

Fat people, skinny people, short and tall, hard bodies and lumpy people, even a guy in a wheelchair, gathered this morning at the crack of dawn to take it all off for Spencer Tunick. Only seven thousand were expected, but more than ever showed up, breaking the world’s record. Reports placed the numbers at between 18,000 and 20,000.

The crowd started lining up at 3:30 a.m. for the formations, and the first photo was taken at 7:18 a.m.

See for selection of photos taken at the event. And no, I’m not among them, having the good sense to sleep the morning away.

Chocolate, Avocado and Tomato

More Mexican people migrate to the United States than die each year, says a new government report.

And now a new law in Mexico City will make learning Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, part of the mandatory school curriculum beginning next fall.

The program probably is intended more to connect students with the roots of civilization than to force them to fret about conjugations and declensions that addled generations before who struggled with Latin and Greek, but the one thought keeps coming into my head. How many students will throw in the towel and decide to pack up and leave rather than deal with an ancient tongue hardly anyone speaks today? Or will the addition to the curriculum, which is really a pretty good idea, make schoolchildren appreciate their heritage more and stay?

Like the avocado, known as ahuacatl in Nahuatl and aguacate in Spanish, another leading export, migrants are more likely to come from Michoacán than Mexico City anyway.

Making Sense Out of Cinco de Mayo

On May first, I explained to a lawyer in the U.S. that the day was a holiday in these parts.

“Oh, yes, Cinco de Mayo,” he replied, not having the first clue.

He just didn’t understand that not only was the first day of May not the fifth day of May, like many folks, he thought Cinco de Mayo was as big a celebration in Mexico as it was in El Otro Lado.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has about the same status as St. Patrick’s Day does in Ireland. Just another day, and not a federal holiday.

In 1862, on the fifth day of May, we Mexicans tromped the well-armed French army at the Batalla de Puebla, teaching them a lesson. A year later, the French re-fortified, made their way to Mexico City, and put Maximilian in charge as the monarch. Cinco de Mayo is a point of pride, harkening that “Can do” spirit, but it’s not a major holiday in these parts.

Estadounidenses tend to think that Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day, not understanding that Dia de la Independencia is celebrated in September, honoring events which took place half a century before that battle in Puebla.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. is nothing new. The first celebration took place a year later in California. Some might say that the U.S. had good reason to celebrate, given that the French would definitely have helped out the Confederacy had it conquered Mexico. The downside would be that we’d all likely have to learn to speak French.

Donald R. Miles connects all the dots in Cinco de Mayo: What is Everybody Celebrating?, explaining what happened before and after that battle.


Nudes to be Shot in the Zocalo


Next Sunday, thousands of Mexico City denizens will bare it all, right in the Zocalo. No, they won’t be streaking or protesting. Famed New York photographer Spencer Tunick has coaxed humans all over the planet to gather in nothing more than their birthday suits for his installation pieces. His volunteers have been photographed in places like Cleveland, Caracas, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Melbourne and Barcelona. And now it’s Mexico’s turn. Some seven thousand naked bodies will be required, but it’s not simply a matter of showing up and shedding your clothes. Participants must be over the age of eighteen years and pre-registered.

Curiously, Tunick asks his subjects to identify themselves by skin color on a range of one to seven, presumably so the bodies can arranged in interesting patterns. But no request has been made for the Mexican shoot. Maybe we Mexicans just all look alike.

Another Day Without Gringos

Today is Labor Day and a federal holiday in Mexico. Various groups are calling for a repeat of the Day Without Gringos, boycotting services and products from the United States to show their support for migrant workers and to fight against migratory reforms that affect them.

Some three million Michoacános live in the U.S., and that’s a hefty number for a state whose population is only about four million. 40,000 Michoacános emigrate each year to the U.S. Nearly half of all Mexicans has some family member working in the United States. That universe is expanded by including those who have family members studying in the United States, who’ve studied there themselves, who have second homes there, and who count upon the U.S. as the place to shop, vacation, and seek medical care. Look at the resumes of the power elite in Mexico, and you’ll find Harvard, Michigan, Yale, Chicago and Princeton degrees. Secretary of Finance Agustín Carstens has an American wife, Catherine Mansell, better known as C.M. Mayo. United States Ambassador Tony Garza married María Asunción Aramburuzabala. The link between Mexico and the U.S. is inextricable.

Mexican workers in the U.S. send so much money back to their families in Mexico that remittances are second only to oil as one of the country’s sources of income. Should those boycotting everything from the U.S. refuse those hard-earned funds from abroad?

There will be parades and protests and the usual rhetoric, but tomorrow’s boycott will be just as effective as last year’s. Mexican migrants are no better off now than they were a year ago. I am deeply ashamed of the United States’ treatment of migrants, but a boycott isn’t going to convince those in power.

But let’s say that I want to celebrate the Day Without Gringos. The Mexican-grown coffee packaged under the Kirkland label is out of the question. So too is the Granny Smith apple, because that came from Superama, which is owned by Walmart. I can’t open the refrigerator, a U.S.-manufactured Whirlpool, and there’ll be no laundry done today in the Whirlpool washer. I can’t even turn on the lights, because the bulbs came from Costco. There will be no vitamins today, because those, too, were imported from the U.S. No dry food for Goodman the Doberman, since it’s made in the U.S. I could try to get some work done, but that would mean using a Dell computer and supplies bought from Office Depot and OfficeMax. Vacuuming is out of the question, because the Eureka was made in Mexico for a U.S. company. No phone calls to the U.S., because the Packet 8 phone system’s run by a California firm. This is going to be rough day, barring myself from reading the New Yorker and Wired, magazines published in the U.S, and reading La Voz de Michoacán, just because it carries some Associated Press stories.

I couldn’t honor the boycott even if I wanted to. I think I’ll celebrate by having lunch at Subway and going to see something like Seduciendo a un Extraño.