Thoughts on returning to Mexico

But all my life I have had to take lessons from people who, in some profound way, cannot see me.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The New Republic: An Appreciation

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Remembering the Ayotzinapa 43, municipal Christmas tree, San Miguel

The last mood I had while in the U.S. was that I didn’t want to return to Mexico, to a life that had become lonely without my friends, and a life that suddenly seems empty, having just  been filled with the energy of two boys and the warmth provided by new friends in the Portland area.  I wasn’t looking forward to the red-eye flight, the 3+ hour bus ride, juggling luggage, negotiating customs and immigration. yet here I am on a Sunday morning in San Miguel.

Despite the long wait at immigration (it seems that several international flights arrived at nearly the same time) I made the 7:30 a.m. bus with ten minutes to spare, so the entire trip was basically as short as it could be.  I managed to find the least expensive cab fare from airport to bus terminal (so I’ve learned something over the years), although it did reek of stale cigarette aroma.

I returned to Mexico on the same day as I had last year, the day that the pilgrims march in honor of La Virgen de Guadeloupe and there were people on foot, being carried by others, on bicycles, in trucks, buses, and cars along the Mexico City route towards the Basilica of Guadalupe.  As many as six million people visit the Basilica during the two-day pilgrimage celebration. The Basilica is both the third-most visited sacred shrine in the world and the most visited Catholic shrine.

In San Miguel church bells, fireworks, and cannon began around 9 p.m. Thursday night and continued until near midnight. On Friday I awoke around 6 a.m. to church bells that rang frequently during the day, sometimes incessantly for periods.  A parade of taxis decorated with garlands of flowers preceded a procession of people on foot wearing baseball caps or cowboy hats or bareheaded or carrying parasols, some in traditional dress. others in form-fitting stretch wear, many singing.  There were far fewer images of the Virgen than were evident with the Mexico City parishoners.

Uber, or who needs taxis?

In Portland my son introduced me to the Uber ride service, in which (via a smartphone) one can obtain a ride without benefit of hiring a medallioned taxi.  The app lets the caller see cars in service and whether they are nearby or distant.  Uber is part of a trend by Millenials towards utilizing unused capacity via wireless technology.

For decades, inventory manage­ment was largely the province of companies, not individuals, and continual efforts to reduce inventory—the stock of things just sitting around—helped companies improve their bottom line. But today, peer-to-peer software and mobile technology allow us all to have access, just when we need it, to the things we used to have to buy and hold. And the most powerful application is for cars.

The movement likely began with shared car services like Zipcar, but has spread to other goods and services.  Why own something that lies idle for 23 hours a day?  Why not pay just for the time one actually needs a car?  Car rental services like Avis or Thrifty have traditionally been located in spots inconvenient to city dwellers (airports, for example) and have been focused on serving out-of-towners.  The new enterprises focus on solving an urbanite’s periodic need for transportation for much smaller blocks of time than a full day.  Made possible not only by smartphones and wireless technology, but also by GPS, services such as Uber are filling a void.

Some people are afraid of this changing landscape.  An online debate raged recently on an expat forum about whether services like Uber are safe (is it like getting in a gypsy cab?), whether cars and drivers are insured, whether the driver knows the route to your destination, and whether cities will see a significant loss of revenue as well lose regulatory control over hired transportation.  Some counterpoints: there is often corruption in the world of medallions, there is danger for many cabbies (there is no cash exchange with Uber), there is wasted fossil fuel with empty cabs seeking fares, and knowledge of a city’s roadways is hardly needed in a world of GPS.

Wait until fully automated vehicles become available.

Being White

My life is unencumbered in so many situations where, for others, it’s made incredibly difficult or dangerous.

  • Amnesty International:  “Race plays an important factor in determining the likelihood of an LGBT person being targeted for police abuse, indicating that such abuses likely stem from racism as well as homophobia and transphobia.”
  • “A 2013 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that LGBT people of color were nearly twice as likely to experience physical violence than their white counterparts. Transgender women made up 67 percent of anti-LGBT homicides in 2013, according to the Anti-Violence Project.” (via Colorlines)
  • “In Oakland, California, the NAACP reported that out of 45 officer-involved shootings in the city between 2004 and 2008, 37 of those shot were black. None were white. One-third of the shootings resulted in fatalities. Although weapons were not found in 40 percent of cases, the NAACP found, no officers were charged.” (MotherJones)

Cleanup of the memorial at the Parroquia

Whether it was due to the length of time the memorial had existed or the rains that had made it somewhat shabby or that the city felt it necessary to tidy the area for the return of the winter people, or that the onset of the Christmas season meant raising the municipal Christmas faux-evergreen in the same locale as the memorial, or the approach of the Virgen Guadalupe’s celebration, the memorial to the Disappeared has disappeared. All that is left of the memorial are some ornaments on the tree, heart-shaped with 43 painted on them.

Cantique de Noël, La Ciudad de México, Victor Luna

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