Friday, October 23, 2009

What's Going on in Mexico Now?

The clouds over Chapala are persisting as the rain continues occasionally. Tonight we had a major downpour, although most days are now rain-free. Soon there will be no rain at all and the mountains will once again turn brown and dusty. Right now wildflowers grace the mountains and provide beautiful color on our daily walks, like this scene I snapped the other day on my morning walk in Riberas del Pilar.

Pixie and I have been working off and on most of the week to get our home, and our lives, back in order after our long summer absence. Besides unpacking the RAV4 with all the odds and ends we brought back, we had to replace our very old washing machine which bit the dust as soon as we got back. This is an example of higher prices in Mexico. The cheapest decent washer we could find was about 4100 pesos, or about $340 USD. But at least now we can wash all those dirty clothes we brought home!

We also had to clean our ajibe (ah hee bay), our underground water stone water tank. The water which is pumped into it by the city had sat stagnant for several months while we were gone, and it was turning green! For about 900 pesos ($72) we had a gang come in, drain the ajibe, scrub it down and let it refill. We replaced all the filters too, so now our water is purified and we're ready to shower and cook. We still drink bottled water because we prefer the taste.

We also had to prune our large queen palms in the back yard. This is a big task, and we hire professionals to do it for 350 pesos per tree. Here is a photo.

So, we're just about back to normal and fitting into our previous life. Since I got back late, I am not teaching now. The semester already started and they found a substitute for my class. That's okay though. I am planning to take some time off and explore some other volunteer opportunities. My new book of poems, Agave Blood, has gone to the printers in Guadalajara and should be ready soon.

When I got back, I was very grateful to see that our friends Susan and Steve Barr had saved all the issues of the Guadalajara Reporter I had missed, so I could catch up on all the local and Mexican news from the period I was away. As I skimmed the papers, I noticed a few big stories which might be interesting to share.

Perhaps the biggest Mexican news over the summer was the July mid-term election. For over 40 years, I think, the PRI party had ruled Mexico. Other parties competed but never won. There was widespread election corruption and Mexican democracy suffered as a result. In 2000, the PRI party was finally ousted when the PAN candidate, Vicente Fox, won the election for president. The PAN party is a conservative, pro-business, pro-NAFTA party generally friendly to the United States. The current president, Felipe Calderon, elected in 2006, is also a member of PAN. In that election, the old PRI party finished a poor third to PAN and the new leftist PRD party. PRI was in disrepute and weak. In this year's July midterm elections, PRI surprisingly surged back into power in the legislature. I think Calderon's popularity has suffered because of the strong war he has been fighting with the drug cartels which has resulted in a large spike in violence, mostly in the border areas. The economic downturn has also hurt the ruling PAN party. Many poorer Mexicans I have spoken with feel an emotional affinity for PRI, crediting them with many of the social reforms like starting the IMSS pension and medical program, limiting the influence of the Catholic church, and building schools and hospitals. Although Jalisco is conservative, Jorge Sandoval, the PRI candidate for mayor of Guadalajara, easily beat the PAN candidate by 48 to 32 percent. This sets up an interesting government for the next three years as PRI will likely block many of Calderon's programs as both parties jockey for the 2012 presidential elections. Mexican presidents are limited to one six-year term. Who knows what will happen if the leftist PRD party also grows stronger?Many Latin American countries now have leftist governments.

The big news in today's paper is about a planned fumigation of all of Guadalajara to kill mosquito eggs to limit the spread of dengue fever, which I mentioned in the last post. Sixty nebulizer-equipped pick up trucks will drive around Guadalajara over the next 4 weeks "fumigating" all areas of the city. Residents are urged to open their windows when the trucks come to their neighborhoods to allow their houses to be fumigated as well. They must be using some type of pesticide for this process, but there was no mention in the article about the health concerns of such a practice. The thinking must be that the danger of dengue fever is more of a health threat.

Another interesting piece in today's paper relates to people self-medicating themselves to treat the swine flu. Mexico allows virtually all prescription strength drugs to be sold over-the-counter with no prescription. This can be a dangerous practice as Mexican people, strapped for cash, try to treat themselves with antibiotics which, of course, do nothing to treat a viral disease like the flu. I have also read about people suffering ill effects from using the wrong medication or causing serious drug interactions. Some politicians in Mexico are suggesting the law allowing these over-the-counter drug sales be repealed. By the way, Mexico has also recently decriminalized small amounts of most illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Interesting. Will the US follow suit? Not likely, although some form of legalization might be the only way to curb the drug violence.

I'll cover some other interesting news stories in future posts. Today I'll include one final happy photo. Lisa, Steve and Susan's daughter visited Lakeside last week with her boyfriend, Buck. Here is the happy couple.

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