Monthly Archives: June 2010

Corrido de Cananea

Earlier today there was a 6.4 earthquake in southern Mexico. While it was happening I, oblivious, was singing the Corrido de Cananea with the famous Hermanos Zaizar.

The mine at Cananea has a long history. And it seems that Calderón, Clinton, the Grupo México, and Obama are all one. Honestly, I might like the narcos better.

Axé.

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Cary Nelson

The modern university is sustained by academic freedom; it guarantees higher education’s independence, its quality, and its success in educating students. The need to uphold those values would seem obvious. Yet the university is presently under siege from all corners; workers are being exploited with paltry salaries for full-time work, politics and profit rather than intellectual freedom govern decision-making, and professors are being monitored for the topics they teach.

Axé.

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Marco Longhini

Longhini is a good conductor and here we see the Moscow Conservatory. One of the search terms that most often leads people here is the title of the Monteverdi madrigal Ecco mormorar l’onde. In searching for more Monteverdi recordings I came across an ancient advertisement saying, “Nadia Boulanger uses Baldwin pianos exclusively.” It included a cartoon of her smiling in an improbably unreserved way as she played a Baldwin.

Axé.

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Armed Men, or, ¡Ay, Sinaloa! and ¡Ay, Tamaulipas!

Looney Tunes: Sylvester the CAT

On Sunday Mexico is having elections and they will be narco-elections. I am sure interesting courses are given nationwide on the drug economy and the narco culture. I would like to develop one as well (or, actually, take one.) I wish I were an economist. I wish I fully understood the ways in which the narcos and the government are interwoven. It is not simply that the narcos are as sly as Piolín.

Today a singer of narcocorridos was gunned down in Sinaloa and I decided I should post a song by him. He turned out to be such a poor singer that I started to search for alternate narcocorridos. I became fascinated with the videos that accompany them, which are very didactic. I almost came around to the narco point of view. I concluded that the narcos must be uploading a lot of these videos in hopes of having such an effect. They block police scanners with narcocorridos, as we already know.

Then I came upon a warning video, ostensibly for a song written from the point of view of a hit man. I believe its real point was to let people know how their post-execution cadavers will look. Next I went back to reading the news, and discovered that now a candidate for public office and his staff had been finished off by commandos.

The narco-position is that the demand for drugs in the US is very high, the stream of guns from the US is very steady, and the “green poison” is what you can grow profitably now that the US is dumping industrialized agri-products on the Mexican market. So, would you prefer to starve, or to cross into the United States as an undocumented alien, or to remain at home and cultivate a crop profitable enough that you can buy a tractor, drive a new truck and wear a wool hat?

Motor vehicles are a predominant topic in narcocorrido discourse. An important reason to be a narco is to buy new 4×4 Chevrolet pickup trucks. But the cars sung about the most are those used for work: Lincoln Continentals, Hummers, and Suburbans, all very cleverly stuffed with drugs.

Axé.

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Qué lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido…

For today’s Mexico-Argentina match I had thought of posting links to live web cams of the Zócalo and some streets like Reforma and Insurgentes, so we can watch the surging fans. The only web cam I am getting to work, though, is this traffic one, and in my search I clicked on some links that gave me viruses.

This web cam has an unexpected virtue, though: it reassures me to see the traffic and the skyscrapers, with movement in real time, since this proves Mexico City is still real although it is absent, or I am absent. Clearly, immense nostalgia invades my thought-stream.

I am quoting, of course, from the Mixtec Song; here is an excellent video on Mixtec farm workers in California.

Axé.

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That American Manner

It is hurricane season again, Z-titlan members, so it is time to watch the National Hurricane Center website.

I have been to some parties since arriving in the United States and there was more drinking and lecturing, and less interaction, than Mexicans seem to undertake. It is as though we had been trained to compete for space rather than share it, even when we would prefer the latter, or as though we wanted recognition more than we did conversation.

In Mexico I read an article by Morris Berman on rudeness in the United States; now I see he has an English version of it on his blog. It quotes extensively from a book by Dick Meyer on American society. I am not sure I agree fully with either analysis, but both writers make interesting observations.

Berman:

Just simple, rude noncommunication…. [R]udeness in everyday interactions in the US is simply coin of the realm.

‘Americans are basically robots; they just go through the motions, they really don’t know what they are doing or why.’ [N. Ed.: This was the conformity Reeducation wanted, I believe. --Z]

Interactions with the staff of stores now boils down to nothing more than a cash transaction, for both parties; [there is no longer] a human dimension to these interactions….

Thus the environment is little more than a “receptacle” for…activity; it isn’t something people have a real relationship to, any more.

Meyer:

Much of what we hate in everyday life are the things that make us feel alone, invisible, disregarded, or dismissed. That’s how we feel when someone is using a Blackberry in the middle of a conversation….

U.S. citizens are isolated because it is unhealthy to risk contact with one’s fellow citizens. When bullies are free to act out their aggression and disdain for others…then others will act to limit their exposure to people…. It is healthier to be lonely than to risk contact with a society without decency….

Boorishness and vulgarity are sanctified by public culture and thus omnipresent.

[One cannot be] an admired leader of a corrupt institution, a noble player in a decadent system, or a clean pool in a toxic stream.

Meyer appears to find the cause of the malaise in the “egotism” of “the sixties.”  It has to be older than this and it has to stem from something else, I strongly suspect. What do you think?

Berman has another piece on societal violence, with an interesting comments thread. And one hotel I stayed at in Oaxaca expected American guests. It had a lot of signs in English requesting, essentially, that people be polite, in ways it assumed or knew they would not know how to be.

Axé.

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Ahuízotl y El Llano

In México-Tenochtitlan they are pressing on to find the tlatoani Ahuízotl. I have seen so many images of Aztec warriors that I dream about them.

Ahuitzotl

In Oaxaca de Juárez I recommend El Llano over the Zócalo because, although it does have a church like all squares, it is not a religious, government, ceremonial, or tourist square, but a working square. It is so large I wonder whether it was one one of those enormous pre-Hispanic markets. I should find out.

The air in El Llano has wi-fi, and the present post was written on that after I visited the international news stand. I had just eaten a quesadilla of Oaxaca cheese and squash flower, with the tortilla made right before my eyes, from a food stall on the square. I had drunk orange water and was now sipping cactus ice.

El Llano has a lovely fountain, shoe shine men, stores with useful items in them, a bank with an ATM machine, a cultural center, several decent and inexpensive restaurants, two youth hostels, a nice hotel, and importantly, a theatre that has concerts on Fridays, as well as other events and a café; concert tickets are 50 pesos or about $4.50. At night, people jog around the square.

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Down on Alcalá the one place not to miss is the Grañén-Porrúa bookstore, which has a wonderful selection of records as well. There is a café in the patio, and high quality arts and crafts are sold next door. The book selection is not as large as that of some of the best Mexico City stores, but it is easily as good and as I say, the CDs are fantastic — although this store does not also stock vinyl as the Péndulo (in the DF) does.

Axé.

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Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl

I found this place by chance; then it got written up. Here is Gilberto Bosques, in conversation with Elena Poniatowska, on watching British planes come in at night over southern France, en route to Germany during the second world war. Look at the prose he speaks:

Muchas veces no bajé, en la noche era un espectáculo ver las luces de las formaciones de aviones cruzando el cielo, sus reflejos sobre el agua, los reflectores cruzándose en el espacio…. Repito, el espectáculo era formidable. Volaba primero una escuadra pionera que iba a soltar las bengalas sobre Colonia, y señalar los puntos de bombardeo. En Alemania donde fuimos prisioneros después, toda la cantidad de luz de esos aviones sobre el río Rhin y después con los incendios de Colonia que oíamos a unos 20 kilómetros así como veíamos caer los aviones cuando los enfocaban los grandes reflectores, es algo que jamás se me ha olvidado.

He, and the Spanish exiles he was hosting, were to go into bomb shelters but he often didn’t because “at night it was a spectacle to see the lights of the planes’ formations cross the sky, and their reflections on the water, and the searchlights crossing each other in space…. In Germany where we were prisoners later, all the light of those planes on the Rhine and then from the explosions in Cologne, which we heard from 20 kilometers away, and the sight of the planes descending when the great searchlights focused on them, I have never forgotten it.”

Axé.

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Sankt Hans, Mais Uma Vez

After Hallowe’en and my birthday, this is my favorite holiday. It is the midsummer or midwinter feast, depending on your hemisphere. On the night of June 23-24, you build fires and jump over them. In northern climes, summer swimming begins today.

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I have some advice on the city of Oaxaca de Juárez which is very, very touristy. This is tourist advice and I am a tourist, but I am a really skilled one. The town is so colorful that when I got here from Mexico City I thought I must have eaten a mushroom on the way. It also has this very colonial situation that you can read up on. Francisco Toledo, a noted painter, was quoted this week in the paper with reference to a specific problem, saying “All Oaxaca is greatly wounded…”.  I am not completely sure but I suspect that the water saving hotels for liberal foreign tourists, although they may use less water than hotels do in the US, still use more water than the regular hotels without large bathrooms and high pressure showers.

1. Never accept a hotel room sharing a wall with the street. No matter how quiet the neighborhood, the cars in this state have noisy engines; their body parts also clank together as they bounce over the cobblestones. 2. Hotels and restaurants around Santo Domingo are recommended as being quieter than downtown; this is the most theme parkish area, however. I preferred to go further up, above República, where you get back into real life. I had neighbors up there who sang songs at night with this extra-deep guitar. 2.5. I stayed in one place I liked and another I didn’t; ask me which and why if you are interested in the information. Many people would probably prefer the one I didn’t like as much. 3. It is true what they say about comedores familiares – even those which look fancy are infinitely cheaper and better than restaurants with similar decoration. 4. Current price of comida corrida is about 40 pesos if you go to a nice looking place that just isn’t within easy view. You do not have to go far to find this; don’t give up when you see bad looking places in obvious locations charging 45, or medium looking ones charging up to 100. 5. There’s a café on García Vigil, the Espresso Gallery, which posts notices about concerts and movies. Further up, under the aqueduct, is the film club; it shows interesting films every night at 7 PM and sometimes more often. 6. Watch out for shopping, as you will be expected to shop and this is not  inexpensive. I wanted to buy a certain kind of huipil I had not seen before, black and very long with large embroidered flowers of a single color (you could wear it with a black pencil skirt, black heels, and Mexican jewelry, and look fantastic) but the asking price was $120 where I started looking, so I cancelled the idea. I ended up spending $120 anyway and this was without getting the book I wanted or the earrings. What I bought: 4 Mixtec CDs, $47 (in a store); 1 Zapotec carpet 3×5 feet, complex and subtle design/tight weave, $55, because the genie-like seller had made it himself and kept laughing and would not go away (asking price had been $75; perhaps it is a flying carpet); 1 Mixtec table runner, $18, because the seller was the regular weaver of a friend of mine (asking price had been $20). 7. I recommend, in addition to the museums and churches (Rufino Tamayo’s pre-Hispanic collection is spectacular) the Ethnobotanic Garden. It is connected to an open newspaper reading room and archive, and an ethnobotanic library, very nice. It also has a film club on Thursdays from 6 to 8 PM, and a good bulletin board announcing intellectual and cultural events.

At the garden, which really is beautiful, I learned that Oaxaca is not only one of the most ethnically varied places one can find, but also one of the most botanically varied. I saw bushes and trees in evolutionary transition from having leaves to having spines. The bushes in particular were very impressive; they look like wire sculptures with broad needles but really they are bushes looking taut because they have leaves and spines that both have the form of broad needles.

The garden was organized by the painter Francisco Toledo and some friends. He is a painter and cultural preserver of some visibility and one should try to visit his other aposentos, which I have not. One should also visit the Taller de Artes Plasticas “Rufino Tamayo,” Juárez 514, Centro, and perhaps register for classes.

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I am still disappointed to have miscalculated such that I missed the Monsiváis events, but if you read the papers for 22 June you will find them described and commented upon in loving detail. There is also an article about Monsiváis and the Mexican left which says in part:

Monsiváis reivindicó la utopía. Sostuvo que el totalitarismo es el asesinato de las utopías y, que, ante la distopía del neoliberalismo, mantener la utopía en el mapa de las convicciones es un requisito de salud mental. Optimista pese a todo, aseguró serlo porque ahora sé que los malvados, los explotadores, los represores, sólo tienen éxito y felicidad mientras viven (antes creía que en el cielo también reprimían las manifestaciones de protesta).

and:

Hace unos años, Carlos Monsiváis escribió: El mundo que conocí ya no existe y el que ahora padezco se está desvaneciendo. Mi consigna al respecto es muy sincera: o ya no entiendo lo que está pasando o ya pasó lo que estaba entendiendo. A pesar de semejante confesión, es difícil comprender cabalmente la izquierda mexicana actual sin estudiar el papel que Monsiváis jugó en ella. Ahora será más difícil hacerlo sin él.

It is worth reading the whole thing.

Axé.

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On UNESCO World Heritage Centres

I, the narrator and performer of this weblog am presently located at a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, where I am to meet the author who is in transit from his stela so we can go back to work in the United States. We want New Orleans to be a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and are not sure why it isn’t.

890 “properties” are now UNESCO World Heritage Centres. Centres I have visited, either before or after they became World Heritage Centres, or both, include:

Austria: Salzburg, Vienna;
Belgium: Brugge, Brussels;
Bolivia: Potosí;
Brazil: Fernando de Noronha, Ouro Preto, Olinda, Salvador;
Canada: Québec;
Chile: Chiloe;
Cuba: Havana;
Denmark: Jelling, Kronborg, Roskilde;
Ecuador: Quito;
France: Amiens, Arles, Avignon, Bourges, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Chartres, Fontainebleau, Le Havre, Loire Valley, Mont Saint-Michel, Nancy, Paris, Pont du Gard, Reims, Strasbourg, Versailles, Vézère Valley;
Germany: Cologne;
Greece: Acropolis, Olympia;
Guatemala: Antigua;
Holy See: Rome, Vatican City;
Honduras: Copán;
Italy: Agrigento, Dolomites, Florence, Ferrara, Naples, Padua, Pisa, Ravenna, Rome, San Gimignano, Siena, Venice, Verona, Vicenza;
Luxembourg: Luxembourg;
Mexico: most, although not quite all, of the listed centres;
Morocco: Fez, Meknes, Marrakech;
Netherlands: Amsterdam;
Nicaragua: León Viejo;
Peru: all but three of the listed centres;
Portugal: seven of the listed centres;
Spain: very many, although fewer than I would have thought, of the listed centres;
Switzerland: Berne, St. Gall;
UK: Tower of London;
US: Chaco Culture, Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, Olympic National Park, Redwood National Park, Statue of Liberty, Taos, Yellowstone, Yosemite.

Without counting I would say that is about 10%, which is not a large proportion, but then again is quite a few for a lay person.

My question is, what do you think of these centres? I am all for having them and as I say, I want New Orleans to be one – and Port of Spain, Trinidad, for that matter. But some of them were also large gentrification projects and have a theme park aspect to them. What do you think?

Axé.

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