Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fiesta in Santa Fe
De Vargas Entrada in Santa Fe and Entradas in Bolivia
Aimee Villarreal has a fascinating piece in today's (click here) discussing the ritual re-enactment each year during Fiesta of De Vargas' reconquest of New Mexico in 1692, twelve years after Popé chased the Spanish speaking people from Northern New Mexico all the way down to El Paso on the run.  The re-enactment is folkloric, mythical, and, factually, incorrect, since it maintains the reconquest was peaceful.  It was not.  In recent years there have been objections to the ritual, since it seems to celebrate something natives may not be pleased to celebrate.  Villarreal herself seems torn:  on the one hand she argues it is one of the "few times of year locals reclaim the plaza and our regional Nuevomexicano culture and traditions are center stage."  But on the other hand she suggests the "painful ideological trappings of conquest and conversion" should be replaced.

La Paz, Bolivia, 2017 Entrada for Jesus del Gran Poder

No such ambiguity exists in Bolivia, where entradas are celebrated at various times of the year by indigenous groups (about two thirds of the population) and whites alike throughout the county, with huge processions dancing through the streets for hours.  Dozens of civic associations spend months putting together costumes and troupes for the occasion.  Bolivian President Evo Morales, an Aymara-speaking native from Oruro, whose government is the most actively nativist in Latin American history stated on July 29 of this year, referring to the tradition of entradas, "other countries like Peru are trying to appropriate our wonderful cultural legacy, and we should not permit it." (click here for press release) He characterized the entradas as a symbol of "our diversity."  In truth, the entrada in Bolivia as it has developed is an important ritual that helps unify a culturally diverse population with a nasty colonial past and enormous contemporary inequalities, by engaging all cultures in common, socially acceptable activities designed to create inter-cultural pride-in-doing.  Many institutions--religious, economic, social--in Bolivia reinforce cultural inequalities.  This one breaks them down while emphasizing cultural diversity

As in New Mexico, entradas celebrate the "entrance" (conquest) of the Spanish empire into Bolivia, but also as in New Mexico indigenous people long ago embraced the rituals as their own, and take enormous pride in participating in them, simply accepting the political conquest as given, but not as a conquest of the spirit.  Lest this seem a sign of submission, indigenous pride in Bolivia, at least since the revolution of 1952, is as strong or stronger than it is anywhere else in Latin America.  Indigenous politicians in El Alto, a city of one million natives just above La Paz, for example, are proud of having ousted two white presidents in a row in 2003 and 2005 by blocking the road to the La Paz airport in a decisive move supported by protest movements throughout the country.  One of the ousted presidents, Gonzalo Sanchez, by the way, spoke Spanish with a gringo accent, was cozy with the US Embassy, and fled to Washington DC when El Alto revolted against him.  This helped pave the way for Evo Morales, an exceptionally talented organizer of indigenous groups, to become president in 2006.  He is still president.

In both Bolivia and New Mexico the Catholic Church is a key ingredient in the ritual, given that indigenous people and Spanish-speaking people alike tend to share in common the spiritual authority of the Church, even though the indigenous people everywhere long ago embedded their own local spiritual beliefs within the relatively tolerant margins of Church doctrine.  It so happens that in Santa Fe and La Paz, Bolivia, some entradas are devoted to Nuestra Señora de La Paz (known here as La Conquistadora).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Arsenic in Dona Ana County Water:  Citizens Take Warning
El Arsénico en el Agua:  Cuidado Ciudadanos! carries a story, written by Maria Esquinca and Andrea Jaramillo, about water problems in poor communities on the U.S. side of the US-Mexico border.  The writers apparently hail from the School of Journalism at Arizona State University.  Part of the story deals with a small community near Lordsburg, and with La Union, NM., and it is worth reading.  Click here

A major gap in the story is the scandal of Sunland Park last year, where officials at every level refused to spread the alarm when arsenic levels (see La Political New Mexico archives for May 28 and June 4, 2016) surpassed safe levels, and where, incredibly, a county commissioner (David Garcia) representing the Southern part of the county actually blamed the residents of Sunland Park for not paying more attention to the quality of the water, in spite of extensive evidence the relevant information had been ignored and possibly supressed by officials entrusted with water quality.  Only Senator Papen, of all elected officials, stepped up to demand answers. 

That officials in Dona Ana County still don't feel responsible for water quality is given by the information provided in the NMPolitics story that residents of La Union, like those of Sunland Park, were not informed when arsenic levels reached unsafe proportions.  Residents of the rural areas of Dona Ana County should be very doubtful of the water they drink, until demonstrably proven to be safe, and should raise hell with elected officials until systems are put in place to prevent this from happening.  Personally, I will not drink a drop of water South of Las Cruces; there may be some systems that are safe, but I want independent assurances of this before I drink.  Ask Olga Arguelles, City Councilor of Sunland Park, about this.  Ask City Councilor Ken Giove about his months-long efforts to get basic information about the water quality.  At least some water quality systems in the Southern part of the county simply don't believe they need to inform the public when their systems fail to deliver safe water.  This is a public safety issue that should arouse the anger of every resident in the Southern part of Dona Ana County.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ben Ray Lujan Vs Tom Perez
Fundraising in the Democratic Party

My friend Samuel Ledoux, a Republican from the old New Mexico family, pointed out most of these facts to me yesterday in a phone call.  The thoughts are mostly his, and worth repeating.  A quick check on the internet confirmed the details.

Tom Perez (he pronounces his last name as in “pres”(ident), not the Hispanic "Pérez"), Hillary Clinton’s choice for National Democratic Chair to replace Hillary Clinton’s notorious Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has had difficulty keeping up with Republican fundraising efforts, despite the shameful spectacle that is the Trump administration.

Here’s what Aaron Blake, of the Washington Post, has to say about it:  The $4.7 million (the DNC) raised in April was the lowest for that particular month since 2009. The $4.3 million raised in May was the worst for that month since 2003. And now the $3.8 million raised in July is the worst for any month since January 2009.  Cash balances have shrunk from $10 million to $3.4 million so far this year.  For the full story click here. The Republican National Committee has raised nearly $10 million per month this year and has cash balances of $47 million.  Bottom line:  Perez and the DNC:  $3.4 million in cash.

On the other hand, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), has been doing quite well, thank you, in spite of lavishing over $5 million on a relatively weak candidate who lost in a solid R congressional seat in Georgia in a special election, a race that became the most expensive congressional race ever.  As of the end of July the DCCC should have nearly $70 million in contributions so far this year, and cash balances perhaps as high as $30 million.  All in all the DCCC has pretty much kept up with the slosh of money flowing into the RCCC this year.  Remember, Donald Trump still has a 78% approval rating among Republicans nation-wide, and Democrats have no heir-apparent for either Hillary or Bernie.  Bottom line:  Ben Ray and the DCCC:  Up to $30 million in cash in the piggy bank.

Score one for our own Ben Ray, and remember, he is being groomed by Nancy Pelosi for a stronger leadership role in a Congress that is likely to be under the control of the Democratic Party in January 2019.  He has ample motivation to raise money.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Juarez Says "Thank God for Acapulco!"
Is There Still Violence in Mexico? Read on

El Mas Triste Recuerdo de Acapulco

Mexico is on schedule for 2017 to become the bloodiest year in recent history, with more than 12,000 murders in the first six months of 2017. June was the deadliest month in the past two decades.

For each of the past five years, Acapulco has suffered the highest homicide rate in MexicoLast year there were 918 killings there, the highest count in Mexico for the fifth straight year. This year homicides are on schedule for about the same count.  Some 5,000 security forces are deployed there, and the string of hotels and restaurants along the beach brims with federal and state police, soldiers, marines and municipal forces. Tourists must be protected at all costs, so yes, feel free to take your vacation there.  But the rest of the city is vulnerable.  So be careful.

Most of Acapulco has been taken over by neighborhood gangs, with names like 221 or Los Locos. Gang members tend to develop specialties: extortion, express kidnapping, car theft, murder.  The dead include barbers, tailors, mechanics, tinsmiths, taxi drivers—any small  business person who refuses to pay extortion fees. Twenty or more of these groups operate in Acapulco, often moonlighting for larger drug cartels who contract them for jobs. For more on this, read Borderland Beat's story, with wonderfully gruesome pictures, here.

The situation is only marginally better in Sinaloa state, where the State Department in late December (Trump was not yet President) issued a travel advisory warning for 15 of the 18 municipalities in the state.  Mazatlan, like Acapulco a thriving beach town, is not on the list, nor is Los Mochis and Topolobampo.  But the capital city of Culiacan is.

Here is what the State Department says about violence against US citizens:

U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjackings and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

Here is what the State Department says about Juarez: 

 Exercise caution in all areas. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling after dark west of Eje Juan Gabriel and south of Boulevard Zaragoza. Defer non-essential travel to the areas southeast of Boulevard Independencia and the Valle de Juarez region.

For the entire State Department travel warning on Mexico (updated recently) read here

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Recommended Readings:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thank God for Española:  Española Police Chief Indicted

The Rio Grande Sun reports that Española’s police chief has been indicted for both child abuse and intimidating witnesses.  A Taos grand jury indicted Chief Matthew Vigil on Thursday, August 18, stemming from incidences involving his wife and her children, and an incident earlier this year involving his daughter.  He allegedly told Vicki Vigil, and one of her children not to talk to police and to refuse to testify at court proceedings, following the incident on Oct. 30, 2016, and threatened to kill her and her children should she do so.  He also allegedly hit his 13-year-old daughter in the face with a shoe during an argument at Big 5 in Taos.  The police chief has been placed on administrative leave.  Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella is currently serving a ten-year sentence in federal prison for roughing up a driver in what prosecutors described as a road rage incident.  His conviction and sentence were upheld in 2015 by the US Court of Appeals in Denver.

Otras Noticias del Norte:  Chama Mayor Resigns

The Rio Grande Sun reports Chama Mayor Ron Russom resigned his post as mayor on August 16, followed two days later by the resignation of Village Councilor Milnor Manzanares.  No reasons for the resignations have been offered.  There will now be two vacancies on the council and the council will name someone to fill the unexpired term of the mayor, who served for the past eight months.  Russom was the fifth mayor of Chama in about four years.

Coming to LPNM in September:
  •  the state of the state as the election cycle begins
  •  city government in Anthony and Sunland Park:  how well are these governments working for the citizens?
  • More to come....