Going to Starbucks for the Garbage

Starbucks has now been up and running in Morelia for less than two weeks, and I’m ashamed to report how many times I’ve visited the place, even if it is a five-mile drive from my house. The Starbucks experience is actually something new for me, having visited only two Starbucks establishments in my entire life which weren’t housed in an airport. The efficiency of Morelia’s franchise amazes me, even if it does mean having to schlep a cup of espresso with my very own name emblazoned upon it to my table, something that just never happens at this town’s other coffee houses.

But I don’t go there for the coffee, even if it is steaming hot. Or for the pastries, the music, Wi-Fi, the touch of Estadounidense corporate enterprise, or the chance to see and be seen. I really don’t even care that Starbucks may have an enlightened labor policy. I go to Starbucks, because they’re giving away used coffee grounds, all neatly wrapped up in the very same foil bag in which the coffee was delivered to Starbucks, sealed with a decorative label, and presented in a basket boasting of a free gift.

My own coffee grounds never find their way into my garden at home, because doing that is just too much effort. Free coffee grounds are another matter, especially when they come in a gift-wrapped package. It’s not a matter of caring about the environment or helping Starbucks get a reputation for going green. It’s a matter of simple economics. Free and gift make all the difference in the world.

Starbucks has cleverly seduced me into becoming its unpaid garbage collector.

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Medical Refugees

Some Estadounidenses come to Mexico for the swaying palms of a beach side resort, others in search of pyramids and treks through artisan villages. As long as the motor car has been around, it’s also been a favorite for roadtrips. But more and more are in search of affordable medical care.  And not just at clinics advertising discount dental care or plastic surgery spas..

In The Dallas Morning News, Alfredo Corchado and Laurence Iliff write about Estadounidenses who travel to Mexico for medical care that’s simply more accessible than anything available in their home country.



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When the President’s at the Next Table

calderon What do you do if you just happen to be having lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Mexico City, and President Felipe Calderon and his entourage just happen to walk in? If you’re having lunch with Ricardo Carreon, regional director of Intel Latin America, you plot to ask for his autograph. And then you whip out your brand-new Canon G7 and ask to have your photograph taken with him and his wife Margarita Zavala. Read Ricardo’s Blog for more about how the story played out. [Photo by Rodrigo Sandoval]

El Bulto (Excess Baggage)

What happens when a left-winger is conked out during a 1971 uprising in Mexico, goes into a coma, and re-awakens two decades later? This 1992 movie reveals a compelling history of the changes that took place in this country from the late 1960’s to the 1980’s.

Online Communities

Online communities predate the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet. Since the early days of Usenet (USEr NETwork), developed nearly 30 years ago for university folk to communicate among themselves, lawyers have participated in online communities, both for social as well as professional reasons. And even before that, a Bulletin Board System, or BBS, enabled users to exchange messages in the ether. Because those systems required distant users to dial in on a telephone, incurring long-distance charges, participation was primarily local and, consequently, small. Pioneer users had to familiarize themselves with the likes of gopher, Veronica, Archie, Jughead, FTP, and the Unix grep command, concepts that seem as quaint today as platen, typewriter ribbon, and foolscap. Not surprisingly, most citizens of online communities were computer enthusiasts.

Read on at the Technology & Practice Guide special issue of GPSolo magazine. And yes, I wrote that article.

The Eyes of Michoacán are upon You

One thing or another frequently takes me to Chicago or beyond. After I’ve fulfilled the purpose of the trip, which always means putting in hours in a conference room off in some hotel or office building, I try to steal away a couple of hours in places like the Miracle Mile or Bal Harbour Shops, checking out whatever’s on sale at Neiman Marcus or Saks, grabbing some Indian food, and hitting a book store. 48 hours away from Michoacán always leaves me jonesing for home, and that feeling of home always rushes back once I’m standing at the check-in line at LAX, O’Hare or George Bush International Airport. Now, it’s easy enough to always run into someone you know at one of the two departure gates at Morelia’s MLM, but the same thing happens at any gateway from the U.S. headed south to MLM. The Mexicana ticket agent at LAX tells me he’s from Ario de Rosales, and, sure enough, we know the same people. Ario de Rosales isn’t that big, but our common friend just happens to live a few blocks from me in Morelia. There’s always someone I know headed to Michoacán from Houston or Chicago.

There’s just something about Michoacán that makes everyone want to claim some kind of connection here. It’s like Texas; you never leave those roots behind. There are probably only two things which leave me weepy-eyed, full of pride, and sentimental: the sight of Morelia’s Catedral when I return home and any song about Texas. “The Eyes of Texas” exhorts Texans to go forth and do great things, because all the world’s watching:

The eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the live long day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them,
At night, or early in the morn’.
The eyes of Texas are upon you,
‘Till Gabriel blows his horn!

Little Michoacáns across the U.S. are filled with the same regional pride that Texans carry with them throughout their lives. Refugees from Mexico City who move to Morelia generations after the last of their kin left Michoacán are quick to claim some link, even as remote as having once camped at Infernillo as a Scout or a distant ancestor twice removed who was born somewhere in the state, just like Estadounidenses reach for their Texas connection.

In Chicago Matters, Chicago Public Radio explores the paths to Chicago from Michoacán and back again.

Jimmy Buffett once sang about everyone having a cousin in Miami. He was wrong. Everyone’s got a cousin in Michoacán or Texas.

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The Best Places to Work in Mexico

Everyone has an idea about what would make a great workplace. This afternoon, I sat over my second espresso doble at Starbucks, marveling at the efficiency of the operation at Morelia’s new branch,  wondering how much the baristas were paid. Not that I’m looking for a real job, mind you.

The Great Place to Work® Institute has issued its rankings of the best places to work in Mexico for 2007. Leading the pack is FedEx Express, but coming as the one-hundredth best place was Hooter’s. Somehow I think I’d have a real hard time getting on at that place.

Working away at a government has a certain appeal, I guess, mostly embraced by those who’ve never actually worked for the government. But only two governmental entities made the grade: Secretaria de Planeacion y Desarrollo Regional (SEPLADE) in Aguascalientes, as the 22nd-best, and INFONAVIT as the 52nd-best.