Monday, February 26, 2007


I found these developments interesting. I felt like posting them here, as a pause for breath between posts about my own life...

¨Scaremongering hurts polio battle in Muslim countries¨

Tens of thousands of children in several countries, including Egypt, Nigeria and Pakistan, are not getting vaccinated against polio because Muslim leaders are spreading false rumors that the inoculation is an U.S. plot to sterilize the Islamic population, CBS News reports. Health experts say this politically motivated scaremongering only serves to spread the paralyzing and potentially deadly disease. CBS (2/23)

Same sex unions legalised in Mexico:

Coahuila, has become the first of Mexico’s 31 states to legalise same sex unions. Next month Mexico City will follow suit.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

how to position myself politically in this country

I am trying, believe me I am trying. For someone so politically minded, used to shouting passionately at the TV at politicians and writing letters on pieces of legislation, I feel a little lost at times here in Mexico. It is not that there is a lack of political information here. On the contrary, the media is saturated with it - airwaves dicussing policies, mexican affairs always on the front page of newspapers before any world news...

Its just that it's a long process to figure out where I "stand" politically in mexico. Traditionally a lefty, I haven't felt much affinity in AMLO - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - the leftist candidate who lost the election last year and still calls himself the legitimate president. I am not denying that there was fraud in last year's July election, there probably was some underhandedness. But for his supporters, he is the president, so in fact according to them we are living in a country with two presidents. Hmm. Many people make fun of him, and others believe he has purely manipulated the people. And as for PAN (Partido Action Nacional), the centre-right party that has won the last two elections, I am in a similarly dispassionate position. Yeah, so Vicente Fox and the now current president Felipe Calderon are your more conventional "righties", sleeping with big business etc.. but there have been some great developments from them. When Fox came into power in 2000, he was the most democratically elected president after 70 years of one party rule, and he ushered in an ambitious agenda of reform. He set out to make mexico a whole heap more transparent and getting serious on human rights. However a lot of his reforms have not been passed, and in many ways the mexican people were left feeling underwhelmed by Fox.

Similarly, Calderon seems quite a bland figure. But just when you have made up your mind to dislike him (the whole country hated him last month after the price of tortillas skyrocketed), he does something cool. Like last week he announced a program of mandatorily planting 150,000 new trees on mexican soil every year, and strengthened protection for wetland areas.

Sigh. So after this detailed overview of mexican politics, all I can say is that there are still so many factors that are lost in translation, and I dont find myself shouting passionately for any political party just yet. They all have a touch of the dodgy about them at times. And then the good old Zapatista movement, still going strong and expounding people power and anti neo-liberal ideas... well I admire the movement a lot, but to honest I still feel alienated by the confonting image of Commadante Marcos in his balaclava and the sermon-like declarations that emanate from their website.

Enough pondering for today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

'mexicanidad', carnavale and julieta

Mexican people are very polite, and I feel as though it has rubbed off on me in the last couple of months. They are full of diminutive turns of phrase for every moment. 'enjoy your meal', when someone passes you by when you're eating, always saluting you with a 'good afternooon, morning' etc, and always remembering their p's and q's. The cultural trend in Mexico is much more collectivist than in Australia - preserving the group comes first, before number one. You pick this up in little ways here and there, and gradually you start to 'mexicanise', poco a poco.

I arrived back yesterday very tired from a weekend celebrating Carnavale in the Caribbean port of Veracruz. It was a wild time - possibly the greatest achievement was our amazing feat of fitting 8 people into a tiny taxi - all squashed in and strewn across each other. This sort of thing is the least of the worries for police in mexico. Taxi drivers willingly partake in the crazy game of sardines that everyone seems to prefer. For Carnavale, there was a huge parade along the seaside boulevarde (mardi gras but bigger and far less regulated!) and the treat of seeing Mexican star Julieta Venegas perform live. Wow, she is amazing, I love her! I was lucky to already have a couple of her albums and know her stuff, but seeing her live was brilliant. Yes, she is a popstar, everyone knows her name - but talk about talent! Accordian-playing, guitar-strumming and red shoes to kill too!
To me, she conjures up the same reaction that Frida Kahlo does for me - strong, bold, playful and colorful. I am currently going through a dreamlike phase believing that she is the modern manifestation of Frida. Ha!

Quintessentially Mexican, I wanted to quote one of Julieta's lyrics for you all - consider this a late Valentines gift for all you beloved readers, and a dedication to my adopted home Mexico. I have a huge affection for this place - the fun and diversion (lemon), as well as the frustration (salt).

Yo te quiero, con limon y sal ( I love you, with lemon and salt).

Besides that adoring babble, I just wanted to say from afar how excited I am about Rudd sticking it to Howard, eh?! Keep up the pressure comrades (okay, dont pay me out for using lefty scum phrases - I am in Latin America!)

And also, I hope you enjoy the photo of the giant monkey float in the Carnavale parade..

2 months has flown by!

I have been away for just over two months - wow, it has flown!

Okay, so I was hoping to load some more photos here... but Blogger is being very cranky as of late with loading photos! I've gone through all the help options, so if anyone has some ideas..

Anyway, do enjoy this photo of a cactus covered by snow. More to come.

In other news - my birthday passed with cake, sitting around and singing tunes to guitar - and this week we are going to celebrate again by breaking a giant pinata!

Monday, February 12, 2007

I want to go to Tepito

There are certainly dodgy bits of this city. I haven't really shown them here on my blog, because really when you're walking through the shadier bits of town is not the time that you take out your camera.

I have found that Mexicans are a lot more cautious than us exchange students and travellers. And, for our better part we should really be listening to them.

Like my desire to check out Tepito - a large sprawling market famous for counterfeit and grime. The other day I cheerfully announced to Elias, my mex boyfriend ´Let´s go to Tepito today´!´, and I was met with a string of cautionary comments and a real reluctance. We didnt go that day, as I had my camera in my bag - but I'm planning to go with nothing but 5 pesos in my pocket and a lot of gumption!

You do hear of people being robbed, often at gunpoint, quite often. However all the same I do feel safe and not freaked out. But you gotta be smart.

The shame of losing to the USA

There were chairs thrown on the ground, cries of agony and mountains of swearwords as we watched Mexico go down 2-0 to the USA (or, confusingly referred to as the 'EU' here) last Wednesday in a FIFA friendly match. Sure, technically the game didn't 'count' for anything, but try that idea with a Mexican and you would probably be called something foul. Losing to the USA, the very country that has robbed Mexico of vast swathes of territory, deceived and manipulated this nation at every turn. As we watched in a restuarant packed with people, even the Argentinians were passionately howling to see the USA beat a Latin nation. Oh it was cruel, Mexico was certainly the better team! Rigged!

On a sunnier note, the Chivas (my adopted soccer team here - by default as my neighbours support it and the uniform is red!) beat Cruz Azul on the weekend - we went to the watch the match and scoffed down tacos and beer while cackling with glee at our victory!


In other news, I feel as though I should at least make some show that I am actually studying in Mexico, besides all these frivolous tales of my leisure times!

La Universidad de la Salle is very different from macquarie. It is a Catholic University (read: NO BAR), small and somewhat quaint. The classroom atmosphere is extremely immature and hilarious at times, with students being told to sit at the front of the class near the teacher if they talk too much! It is certainly not a ´¨typical¨¨ university atmosphere, with no large lectures or political activism on campus: This week I am going to take a tour of UNAM, the brilliant and huge main university in Mexico and one of the best in Latin America - to check out the vibe there. Nonetheless I am having fun in class, and thank goodness there is not too much work.

The most exciting news relating to uni is that I passed the auditions for the La Salle Choir! I am so excited!! we sing spanish songs, negro spirituals and more.. and have a concert in a cathedral in the city coming up!

I have also started dance lessons, and have been selected in a 'special group' to advance faster and perform in a presentation of salsa. Yay!

Anyway, enough thrilling details...

GAH! My photos arent loading, sorry all!!! silly slow computer..

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Horses, silver, cactus and mountains

This last weekend was a public holiday so I piled into a small VW beetle with a load of French students and we set off for a weekend of camping and horseriding in Mexico's arid, beautiful north country.

We camped on a savannah-like plain outside of the silver-mining colonial town of Zacatecas. There was no one, just us, cows and cactuses. And the boys burnt an amazing amount of grass in making what they called a bonfire of 'puta madre'. (perhaps best not to translate that here).

But the highlight was definitely our sojourn in Real de Catorce, a ghostlike old mining town boxed in by high, dry mountains. It is an amazing, eery place.
We rented horses and set off high up above the town, and peered down long abandoned silver mine shafts 300m deep... we gasped as we threw large stones to the bottom and held our breath waiting for the sound of them hitting the bottom of the mine.

At first I was slightly nervous about horseriding as my memories of this activity derive from 12 yr old clumsy experiences... but I couldnt have enjoyed it more.

I certainly had a couple of Indiana-Jones-and-the-Last-Crusade ´leap of faith´moments, such as when we were winding down a steep narrow path and I had to veer my horse around the side of a sheer drop beside me.

On our final day we arose before dawn and rode the horses high up to the Sacred Mountain of the Huichol people, to be greeted by a gatekeeper of the sacred site who emerged from a little stone hut, with a fluffy moustache and a little candle.

We kept climbing and climbing, and we reached the snow line, galloping with the horses through the mist and surrounded by cactuses covered in snow - such tenacious creatures cacti. And yummy to eat too!

It was the sort of scenery that provokes dramatic scences in your mind - cold blooded murders, passionate love scenes in the desert, cunning escapes... all these images leap involuntarily into your mind as you ride along.

I didnt have batteries in my camera so will load some borrowed photos shortly!

I just spent an hour looking for postage stamps

Man I do love this country, but at times the processes are infuriating. I just spent an hour traipsing around searching for the most hidden post office in the world, only to find it was closed at an unpredictable hour.. then tried countless papelerias (newsagents) who apparently could give me postal stamps. I gave up after the fourth try, and was told that actually, papelerias no longer sell stamps. This is of course after a wild goose chase up and down the Avenida Revolucion, (directions in mexico seem to very approximate: ' yeah, just straight ahead' can mean actually two blocks ahead and around the corner and across the road).
And dont get me started on the process for borrowing a book at an english language library here... that is a touchy subject with me at the moment. he he.
But it's all part of the cultural immersion and fun, eh?

I finished my first piece of homework today. Monday was the 90th anniversary of the Mexican Constitution, so for my history of law class I had to write a short interpretation of an article from a newspaper about the anniversary. I bashed out a rather cheeky critique of President Calderon's call for constitutional reform, labelling his speech as nothing more than empty rhetoric with no considered goals. It was fun to get feisty in another language!!