In July a book called La Frontera by French-born writer Patrick Bard is coming out. It looks like it might be pretty good, for a dramatized but truth-based thriller. The danger is two-fold: that it makes the stituation into a whodunnit mystery, which is exactly what people need to know it is NOT, and second, that a fictionalized account will elide the fact that it IS factual. Of course these are the 2 things that every fictionalized story based on this situation seems to screw up every time, including the upcoming J.Lo blockbuster movie.
I seem to be unconciously and involuntarily compensating for almost 3 months of very little internet use while travelling by using it an incredible amount in the last week and a half that I've been "back" from my travelling. It's really annoying. It's like an addiction. I need to cut down.
Additionally it doesn't help when everything cool that I find online I want to blog about, which just makes me use more time. There's the discovery and then the writing about the discovery. Argh. For instance in the last hour or so I've found 2 or 3 more things I want to blog about, though all of them may be old news and they just seem new to me because I've been travelling: the hackersafe badge that i've seen on a few different commercial websites now (which seems like an invitation for hackers to attack, a fiasco just waiting to happen), a hilarious all-your-base style net meme from a while back involving a lost frog, and... what was the other thing?... there's an interesting article about media activism, basically a manifesto, by Patricia Zimmerman, who is a really great, dedicated activist academic who I met at the Collage Conference back in March.
Well there's actually a TON of other stuff, just look at my Delicious bookmarks and how many i've added just in the last day or so. There's no way to blog about it all so Delicious is a good compromise, sort of micro-blog... keep checking it out, and if the links keep arriving on my list at the same rate or greater, email me or call me or send a courier and tell me to get the hell off the net and do something else, for god's sake...
Interesting photo essay from BBC News about sexual diversity in Bolivia. Some really great photos of a group of drag queens in La Paz, and quotes from one of its members. They even had a small pride parade in La Paz. I remember being surprised at hearing last week of the huge turnout in Mexico City for its pride parade. But for La Paz it's even more incredible. Way to go, Bolivia.
Oh. My. Freaking. Gawd. This is just about the coolest thing I've seen on the web in a long while. These people are using Flickr and another site called Geobloggers to create a searchable database of photographs that are tied to the coordinates on the globe where they were taken. You can go to the Geobloggers site and find a place on the map and search for any photos that were taken in that area. Or conversely, find a photo on Flickr, and click over to the Geoblogger site where it'll show you where that photo was taken.
For instance, I have just Geotagged a photo I took yesterday on the edge of Shellsburg, about half a mile from where I am right now. Go to that photo and click the link under the photo where it says "Geotagged" - you'll be taken to the geobloggers site where it will show you on the map where it is. You can even switch to a satellite photo view of the same spot. holy shit! This is soooo great.
Oh and the funny thing is that one of the main people behind the geobloggers site is named Steeev (with one more 'e' than me).
I looked around at rss feedreading software this morning because it's getting harder and harder to manage all the blogs and other periodically updated sites that i try to look at regularly. At first I found these cool "docklings," software that runs in your MacOS dock and updates automatically, but after wasting time with those I found out eventually that Apple discontinued 3rd party docklings. Stupid.
Anyway, I ended up going with an app called NetNewsWire, the freeware version. Loaded it up with all the blogs and newsites and stuff that I want, and it seems pretty cool. I'm even subscribed to a feed of all my Flickr contacts, so if any of them post a new photo, I'll know about it within the hour.
here's an OPML file (whatever that is) of all my feed subscriptions, if you're interested. It was generated by the netnewswire, and I think a lot of other feedreaders can import them. So if you care about the blogs i read (I don't know why you would, but just in case), or try to read, there ya go.
I love not knowing how this stuff works. I mean, obviously I know, in theory, how it works, and I know I could find out exactly how in detail if I wanted to. But I don't care about the details, and I love just seeing it work and sort of pretending that it's magic. This may be a profoundly un-geeky attitude, but I think I've realized that's how I've always been, even when I was a clueless highschool nerd and thought I wanted to win the Nobel Prize in physics. I've always liked having some things be mysterious and magical. I'm not interested in knowing the inner workings of everything, like I think a lot of geeks are. Maybe that's why I hated engineering school. And yet it suceeded in permanently altering my brain anyway.
Speaking of brains, now what I want is an RSS feed of certain people's minds who don't have blogs and who aren't in touch with me often enough or in detail enough for me to know what the hell is going on in their lives. Like Jon and Jay - can I just wire my newsreader up to your heads somehow? what? why not? I think the NSA makes a chip you can get implanted to do it. C'mon, try it out!
The proper definition of reformism should hinge, not on the means we use to build a new society or on the speed with which we move, but on the nature of our final goal. A person who is satisfied with a kinder, gentler version of capitalism or statism, that is still recognizable as state capitalism, is a reformist. A person who seeks to eliminate state capitalism and replace it with something entirely different, no matter how gradually, is not a reformist.-- Kevin Carson, from Mutualist.org: Free-Market Anti-Capitalism
"Peaceful action" simply means not deliberately provoking the state to repression, but rather doing whatever is possible (in the words of the Wobbly slogan) to "build the structure of the new society within the shell of the old" before we try to break the shell. There is nothing wrong with resisting the state if it tries, through repression, to reverse our progress in building the institutions of the new society. But revolutionary action should meet two criteria: 1) it should have strong popular support; and 2) it should not take place until we have reached the point where peaceful construction of the new society has reached its limits within existing society.
Wow. Yes. I couldn't possibly agree with this more. This is one of the best things I've ever read regarding the whole never-ending argument about reform versus revolution.
Carson is a good writer and has a lot of very interesting and wise things to say, in the process of explaining the flavor of anarchism that he espouses, "mutualism." I don't agree with his non-collectivist view, and I don't think I concur with his prioritization of "the market" - a little voice in the back of my head keeps saying "you can't have a market economy without capitalism. Can you? how can you be anti-capitalist and pro market?" And yet that's what he's claiming to be.
So, I dunno. You get some interesting mixtures of good and bad ideas, wisdom and foolishness coming from the same head, a lot of times. Further proof that you can't just swallow whole any one ideology. I guess I'm not a mutualist.
Just uploaded a few photos (click on these to go to my flickr pages and see a few more. search on tag 'iowa' to see a few from last time I was here) just to give you an idea what it's like here on the outskirts of Shellsburg, Iowa. It's very green compared to 3 months ago when I was here before.
This morning I walked into town to the post office and back to mail some stuff but also I haven't been getting enough excercise so a long walk was in order. It's only about a mile and a half(?), but better than sitting on my ass. It's hot and really humid here.
Bill Conroy of NarcoNews brings us an excellent article about Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban who has been working for the CIA for years, and allegedly blew up a Cuban passenger jet in 1976.
Carriles has snuck into the U.S. expecting to get asylum and escape from being extradicted to Venezuela, where they want to try him for the airline bombing. But he made himself too visible, too public, so now the Bush administration is in a bind.
The photo here is of a mural/grafitti painted on the cement bank of the Rio Grande between Juarez and El Paso. I saw it last week and didn't know the story, so I didn't really understand what it was referring to. Now I do.
Anyway, read the article, it's good.
These kind of situations should receive more media coverage. They're fascinating, and stories like Bill's display amazing feats of investigative, muckraking-style journalism that this country needs to be exposed to more. I'm sure stories like this would do well in the marketplace (of ideas and money) because they're edgy and interesting, but politically the mainstream press won't touch them, for fear of trouble with BushCo. So much for the idea of a free media.
In addition to the official "personal," this goes under the "mean spirited" category, as well as the "groan" and "there goes the neighborhood" categories. So beware.
I was looking through the archives of the little mailing list that started with a few very cool friends in Portland, a thing we use mainly just to invite each other to bad movies, usually, and gossip about silly internet humor. I guess maybe now that I'm back in gringolandia but still far from my best gringo amigos, I was feeling like I wanted to catch up on their doings.
Well, the list has gradually been expanding to include a wider and wider circle of friends of friends and aquaintances to where for the last year or so there have been some people on the list who have never ever met and probably never will. This is in stark contrast to its beginnings in summer 2002 when it was all people who saw each other and did cool stuff together almost every day. Well, alas, now the final nail is in the coffin, and another reason for me to be glad I'm not now in Portland, and will soon be leaving for good: I look through the June archives and find that my old San Francisco flatmate, who I absolutely detest, has moved to Portland and has just joined the list. Fucking A.
Now I'm not saying there's nobody that I don't not get along with on the list. There's one cabron in particular that is also in my email "asshole filter", but at least our troubles developed after we were already on the list, and he's moved away from Portland anyway. But this other guy, I absolutely can't freaking stand him. I guess that's what happens when you live in an overcrowded apartment that you can't move out of without leaving the whole city because of astronomical rent, with someone for 6 years, someone who you previously knew but not well enogh to know what an asshole they were.
Oh and I guess the other ingredient there in that recipe is "when you're me, an easily annoyed, hard to please dork with expectations for everything and everyone that are way too high..." It must be hard for some friends I know who seem to get along with everybody, to see me getting into these hateful conflicts. Another asshole that wants to sue me or kill me has repeatedly said, amongst other childish and not very creative insults, that I don't get along with anyone, but this is obviously bullshit. I just don't have any tolerance any more, at this stage of my life, for assholes. There is just occasionally the fuckwad that I cannot, will not, put up with. I always give them plenty of chances to redeem themselves, I always put up with their shit and am exceedingly generous and forgiving for way too long, but eventually my patience runs out. But it's not like this happens all the time. Out of the hundreds of cool people I know, I can count on just one hand the assholes that have elevated themselves into this pantheon I'm talking about. And I should stress that, like in George Carlin's great skit, I make a big distinction between an asshole, a scumbag, and a jerkoff. The latter 2 are much easier to forgive and forget, but the first, it's just hard to deal with them.
suspira [espanol for sigh]... well, I guess I can see a bright side in looking through the portland keyhole, and that is that I found out mi amigo Reverend Phil has a blog in which he describes his adventures biking to L.A. for Bikesummer 2005 and all the, I am sure, entertaining insanity that that involves. That makes me smile... I look forward to reading more of it.
Okay, sorry for this vindictive rant. I promise the next entry will get right back to the dark visions of opression, struggle, and injustice that keeps you coming back to this fine blog. :-)
The rest of my photos from my trip are now online. This last batch is from Mexico City, Mazatlan, Chihuahua, and Juarez. It took way too long to get them all up there, but anyway, there they are. Now I can get on with more important things, like my film.
It's so strange, the shift in surroundings and habits this week. The biggest change is just being constantly exposed to the toxic infosmog of the Internet, tempted by it, soaking in it for hours and hours. Hot and cold running cyberspace, for free, whereas before, for 3 months, 1, maybe 2 hours a day all I could afford, money and timewise, to spend in front of a computer. And all the excercise I used to get, walking around strange cities.... Well, now that I'm done with this relatively pointless gesture of organizing and uploading all these photos, now maybe I can impose some discipline on myself, be productive and healthy and get my shit together.
from the PCASC mailing list:
Today, the White House sent CAFTA to Congress. The news was made
official in a USTR press release. This move follows on the heels of a
pro-CAFTA press conference held by President Bush this afternoon.
CAFTA could move to the floor for a vote as early as next week. If
you oppose CAFTA, NAFTA and the Free Trade Agenda, this is a time to
be on high alert. [and take action]
The administration is trying to buy-off Republicans from states with
a strong sugar industry, but the sugar industry announced that they
will not accept the deals offered by Bush so far. Remember your
history: NAFTA faced similar opposition but ultimately passed by a
one vote majority in a midnight vote on the House floor. We can't
afford to let up pressure on CAFTA.
Continuing my massive photograph bonanza in the wake of my 11 weeks of travelling, today I bring you a set of photos from San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico. I spent about 16 days in this city and took a lot of interesting photos. A good portion of them were of the great grafitti and stencils which are pretty prevalent and often political there. enjoy!
You may have seen a few of them before, but I have posted today the best of the rest of my photos from Guatemala. It's way too many, about 200, I am the first to admit, but it was hard to pare it down even that far. I had more than 300 to start with. What do you do when everything is beautiful and strange for 6 weeks and you want everyone you know to see just how beautiful and strange it was? Aren't I good to you?
Si, soy muy chido, si? ja ja ja...
Podscope is a search engine for searching the content of podcasts . When you get the results you can actually listen to the few seconds where your search word was said, right there on the results page. It apparently uses voice recognition, and it sort of works, though one of my test words was "Chiapas" (still thinking about the Zapatistas) and amongst the results was an item about podcasting wherein the person speaking said "chopping the sound off the end," and that evidently got heard by the computer as "Chiapas." But anyway, a very cool web tool.
Interesting. The constant march of progress. hah.
In solidarity with the EZLN who yesterday went on red alert, I just posted a collection of photos I took a bit less than a month ago while studying spanish in Oventic, one of the Zapatista Caracoles. I have over 800 photos I took in Guatemala and Mexico over the last 11 weeks that I just started going over today, but I decided to upload these first. Vive Zapatismo!
Enjoy and be inspired...
Holy shit! On the very day that I returned from Mexico (well, from that weird hybrid of Mexico and the U.S. called The Border), yesterday, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has called a red alert! Amazing. Less than a month after I was in Zapatista territory, they are encouraging internationals to leave, writing: "national and international civil societies who are working in peace camps and in community projects are being urged to leave rebel territory. Or, if they decide freely of their own volition, they remain on their own and at their own risk, gathered in the caracoles. "
What's going on? The communique doesn't explain WHY they're doing this. Wow. Is this the start of some big new rebel armed operation? Or a new defensive posture based on recent violence perpetrated by the Mexican Army and the Chiapaneco paramilitary groups? Is it related to threats last month against peace volunteers, as I wrote about in this blog?
Pues si, anyway, I am safely back in Iowa, about as far from Chiapas as one could be, though the 2 places are simliar in at least one way: they are both definitely lands of corn.
So today is my last full day en la frontera, and a few minutes ago i was
heading toward el mercado en Juarez when I met this Mexican guy who told me a sad story. At first I thought it was the typical, 'hey i'm stranded, give me some money', story you hear on the streets of everywhere, in whatever language. But it was far too detailed and convincing this time for me to think it was fake.
The guy, Angel, said he'd been living in San Jose for 5 years, and elsewhere in California before that, but he got his driver's license suspended because his friend had an open container in his car. So then Immigration got hold of him, and flew him to San Diego for a hearing. The judge suspended his green card, and said you can either stay in jail and fight this in court and it would cost lots of money, or you can voluntarily be deported and have a better chance of reapplying for your green card successfully later.. So he chose the latter, but then they didn't just take him over to Tijuana, where he has family. They flew him all the way to El Paso and deported him to Juarez, where he's never been before.
Now he has to get a job, and meanwhile try to survive in Juarez, so he can get a bus to Tijuana, which is like 100 dollars or more. I gave him some money in exchange for letting me interview him, and he told his story on camera.
Okay, maybe the driving thing is a white lie. Maybe he was DUI. But even so, that's not a reason to deport someone who's been living peacefully and lawfully, with girlfriend and kids, for over 5 years in the U.S. And then to fly him halfway across the continent is ridiculous - he said they do that a lot because they think people will just try to cross again if they deport them straight south, where they might have family, friends, etc. So they take them far away, so its harder for them to sneak in again. This is cruel and unusual punishment, especially since this guy was legal. Absolute bullshit.
In other news, yesterday I did 3 interviews with members of Nuestras Hijas Regresso A Casa (May Our Daughters May Return Home), a group of mothers of murdered women in Juarez. I first met with Marisela, who is the co-founder and a leader of the group, and I think a lawyer too(?). She was extremely helpful: she called up 2 mothers and then drove me to their houses. The first was the home of Ramona, who is the mother I was with on the Caravan last fall. Her house is also where the office for the group is. It was great to see her again, and she seemed happy to see me. She asked about the other people who were on the Caravan with us and I interviewed her with a few update questions and things we hadn't talked about before. During the interview I kept thinking of how much better my spanish was than back then, when I really couldn't have an actual conversation with her.
After that she and Marisela showed me a little pirate radio station that they had built in back of the office. It was incredible. A little table with microphones, a mixing board and other gear, and the whole room covered with egg cartons for sound dampening. We went back in the office and I got some footage of the 2 of them pointing out where bodies of murder victims have been found, on the big map of Juarez that I had brought with me. They explained where the famous places were like Lote Bravo, Algodonero, Lomo Prieto, etc. Then after interviewing Marisela she drove me over to the house of Josefina, another mother. She was a little sick so we made her interview short, and then she explained how to get a bus back into the center of town, because Marisela had to bring her husband's car back.
I got back to el centro without difficulty, then found a place for lunch, and shot a bunch of b-roll of the streets, the long line of cars waiting to cross the border bridge, etc. Finally I walked back across that same bridge to my hotel and my foot hurt a lot, so I ended up just resting and going to sleep early. Since it was Saturday night I had had visions of going back into Juarezland (the central, party-area right across the bridge where El Paso youth go for underage drinking and other vices), and interviewing people on the street, getting some vox populi accounts. But I couldn't, I just stayed in, read and watched TV.
This morning I got up early and went to the campus of University of Texas El Paso, because I'd heard that it was right across the river from Rancho Anapra. Anapra is one of the poorest neighborhoods, on the west outskirts of Juarez. I took a bus up to UTEP and sure enough it was perched high on a hill looking over the muddy and grassy Rio Grande right into western Juarez. Kids were swimming in the river, even though it's horribly polluted. I got some good footage. Had lunch, came back to the hotel for a siesta, and then came into Juarez. Tommorrow I fly out of El Paso, so this is my last chance to do any more footage gathering that I want to do.
Nevertheless, I'm feeling pretty positive about the film now. I think I really got everything I need to make the improvements in the documentary that it needs. I was feeling rather discouraged yesterday morning after reading email from a compañero and activist in Portland who said some possibly correct but kind of depressing things about the project. I had sent him a copy of the rough cut, asked him for his thoughts, and I think that even though he means well, ultimately his opinions about what I'm doing are colored by a certain jaded cynicism; but at the time I was bothered. now I feel okay. I think this is going to work out, and I'm going to have a great doc soon.
Well, I am back in the U.S.A., just barely. The border is really quite weird, in many ways. It is indeed a mixture, a culture of its own.
Yesterday I took the bus from Chihuahua City 5 hours north to Juarez. It was, in a way, the worst touchdown in a new place that I've had for my whole trip, probably, I realized, because I let my guard down. I thought to myself, subconcioiusly at least, 'oh, hey, i'm almost back to the States, it'll be easy.' So I didn't plan my arrival that well. I knew I wanted to stay on the U.S. side, because I had read hotels and food in El Paso are a better value than the ones in Juarez, but I wanted to be close to the border crossings, so i could go back and forth easily.
(I'm reminded of a story Subcommandante Marcos told, of talking to a migrant from Guatemala headed through Chiapas on his way to Gringolandia. Marcos asked, why don't you just stay here in Mexico, why go to the U.S.? The Guatemalteco said are you kidding? Mexico is the worst of both worlds: pay as bad as in Guatemala, but prices as high as in the U.S. For the North of Mexico, especially the border region, this is pretty true, I think. )
Anyway, so I didn't think too much, plus my guidebook has no map of Juarez, just a rough description of how to get into el centro from the bus terminal. So I got on the first city bus I saw headed for el centro, but where it dropped me off was not that close to the border, and i had no idea where to go exactly. I asked around, bought a map, and eventually slogged my way to the bridge - keep in mind, with my 70 pounds or so of stuff (I started with about 50 but with souvenirs and stuff my cargo has grown) on my back. I wish I had a photo of what I looked like when I finally found my way to a hotel in El Paso - dripping with sweat and disheveled as hell with my giant backpack and other bags. But before getting there I had to walk to the bridge, over the bridge (I didnt have quite enough pesos to get a taxi and I knew there was a branch of my bank in downtown El Paso. Why not just walk? hah.), several block from the bridge into downtown proper, find the bank, get some dollars, then find a hotel. There's lots of sort of rundown sad looking hotels down here, but i found one that's not too bad called Gateway Hotel. insanely expensive by the standards of what I've been paying (anywhere from 2 to 11 times more expensive) in Mexico and Guatemala, but I get a lot more. Water from the tap that I can drink! Hot showers! All day long! Toilet that can flush down toilet paper! Air conditioning!
AC? you bourgeois pig, you're thinking about me. Wait, listen - it was in the high 90s here when I walked across the border yesterday, and today, and for the next week, its supposed to hit about 104 F. That's hot. You pretty much have to have AC, or you die, here. And many do. Meanwhile I saw on TV this morning that the Pacific Northwest is in the middle of a cold wave with lots of rain and even snow in some parts. Wow. I'm sorry, my Portland friends, but that is good news for me. It makes me happy to be sweating my ass off in the nice hot dry Frontera....
So here I am, and its weird, hard to tell when to speak which language, sometimes. And this morning a funny a pleasing thing happened. I was eating a cheap breakfast in the hotel's cafe and I bought a copy of one of the Juarez newspapers, El Diario, which they sell in El Paso - in fact they have a Juarez version and an El Paso one, both in Spanish. Anyway, regular non-intellectual newspapers I can read pretty well now in Spanish. I still take forever to get through an article in La Jornada, cuz its more highbrow. But anyway I was reading El Diario and eating breakfast and the waitress said in spanish that they dont get many gringos reading the Juarez paper here, where are you from, Spain? And I said no, the U.S. and she was really surprised and said usually gringos read the El Paso Times, wow, you know spanish, and I said, well, I'm still learning.
It kind of surprises me that more gringos in a border town like this don't know more spanish. Actually, I bought that paper because I wanted to see if there was any recent news of any murdered women in Juarez. Nope, not today. There were lots of men killed in various parts of town, though, including the owner of a big bar called El Mango. Some guys just drove up and blasted him and then zoomed off, bullets ricocheting through the window toward the neighboring children's nursery.
Anyway. Today I have errands. Go back across border, call some potential interviewees. Go to a bank to pay my Mexican border exit fee (i think it's 13 bucks). Wander around, think about where to shoot more footage. Try to find a high building to shoot a panorama of the city from. But basically I'm not in a rush. Yestereday I realized I have a day longer than I thought. For the last week I was thinking, for some reason, that my flight out of El Paso was Sunday, but its monday. So I have 3 full days here. Hopefully that will be enough time to get all the footage I need. I think it will be.
This article from El Paso talks about the dissappearance about a month ago of a young school teacher in Juarez. Its the first thing I've read, amazingly, that suggests there are links between certain specific areas of town and certain stores, namely 2 music stores, where victims were going or coming from or in when they disappeared. Muy interesante.
Wow, if someone ever told me I'd be spending 2 nights alone in Chihuahua City, Mexico a few years ago I would have been baffled. There is a reason I am here that I will get to in a moment. But seeing it, you would understand why I wouldn't have expected to ever go here, unless you thought I was really into cowboy boots - there are about 200 boot stores here, supposedly one of the best places in Mexico to buy cowboy boots - there just is not really any tourististic reason to be here at all. Actually, it is the terminus of the Copper Canyon rail line, so people are probably passing throuh. But there's very little that caters to foreign visitors.
It's not an unpleasant town. There are several very nice plazas in el Centro, and a pedestrian walkway a few blocks long, though it has virtually no benches to sit on, and no coffee culture presence or any other sidewalk sit-and-hang-out restaurants or bars or whatever. Here in Chihuahua eople seem to like to buy ice cream and walk with it, rather than sip lattes while sitting at sidewalk tables. In fact in the whole downtown area I only found one coffee place where you can sit down and drink real coffee and relax. This is specifically Chihuahense, or maybe of el norte, because in D.F. and in San Cristobal there was definitely a coffee culture, even apart from tourism.
Anyway, the reason I AM here is to interview people regarding the femicides of Juarez and Chihuahua. About 5 hours south of Juarez, this city, capital of the state of Chihuahua, has seen similar killings of young women, and an activist group called Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for Our Daughters) has arisen and is based here. Late afternoon yesterday I rolled into town on a bus 17 hours or so out from Mazatlan and checked my email. Macrina from Mexico Solidarity Network had come through for me and had arranged with Alma Gomez, one of the leaders of Justicia Para, for me to do some interviews. So I called up Alma and we have made plans to meet at her house. Two mothers of victims from here, and also perhaps another woman who is a main leader of the group, Lucha Castro, will meet us there.
So I'm pretty pleased. 3, maybe 4 interviews in one day. Now I just have to find my way to Alma's house, which is outside of el centro.
There's so many other things I'd like to blog, so many thoughts and observations, but I think its best to start with just what's going on, and if I have time, after checking my email and other tasks, maybe I'll blog again with some other random themes. hasta loo...
Jacob has been trying to comment on my blog and my antispam module keeps rejecting him. I can't figure out why. So, I'm going to post what he tried to say, which he just emailed to me:
Hey, I only paid 600 pesos!
Hope you're travels are going well Steev. The night you left, we went a
cafe where Karlitos and someone else from CML were going to do a poetry
reading. Well, the smug dryness of the place mixed with the damp
inebrity of ourselves made for a quite a hilarious night. Karlitos ended
up reciting his poetry from the second floor, meanwhile some others were
throwing down biting anti-bourgeous criticisms at the other 'poets.' We
got thrown out. Just another day in the Ciudad Monstruo.
Some other things you left out (and i haven't written anything in a
while): The amazing pyramids of Teotihuacan, the phat dj-funk party in
that hotel, the wireless hacking adventures, and more. Really, I love
this city. Te amo Mexico.
Say hi to the border for me. She misses me.
Jacob also recently posted the radio show he produced last week which is centered around an interview he did with me in San Cristobal. He's been remotely doing this weekly radio show as he travels, for broadcast on Radioactive, the San Diego IMC web radio station. I'm listening right now and I sort of sound like a spaced out dork for most of the interview. I think I was distracted by the beautiful garden we were sitting in at the time. oh well.
Anyway, more about me. I made it onto a bus last night that knifed its way across Mexico and 18 hours later deposited me here in Mazatlan. All air-conditioned buses in Latin America are TOO air-conditioned, to the point that its always a good idea to bring at least an extra layer with you to your seat. This bus, though, was the worst ever in that sense. It was so cold I should have brought 3 extra layers. Or a down quilt or something. It was crazy. especially when the bus was stopped for awhile. It sucked.
But anyway, now I am in hot sunny coastal Mazatlan and it's beautiful. I've only been here a few hours so I havent been over to where the really nice beaches are, by the resorts. I'm staying downtown where its cheaper and more authentic. Tommorrow I will hit the beach, and I wish I coudl stay longer but then in the evening i plan to jump on another long distance bus and go to Chihuahua City, 16 hours away,where I will hopefully interview one of the activists involved with the fight for justice for the victims of the femicides there and in Ciudad Juarez.
In a few hours I will hopefully be on a bus heading comfortably northwest, toward Mazatlan, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. I've been in Mexico City for 6 days, staying one longer than I had planned, mainly so I could go to El Chopo today.
El Chopo is an amazing punk/goth/metal/ska/whatever/counterculture market on Saturdays, where 4 blocks or so worth of booths materialize full of people selling music, dvds, t-shirts, patches, stickers, books, zines, etc. It is really quite amazing, especially since in a normal week in D.F. you might see like one or 2 people who look truly freaky or countercultural. Not that Mexicans are all conformist drones, I'm just saying that living in Portland and California for the last 10 years has really gotten me used to seeing weirdos with mohawks or leather or purple hair or whatever, and you just dont see that too often in Latin America, usually. (and don't you dare think I mean 'weirdo' to be a negative term. To me its positive, and a convenient handle for referring to those who dont conform to society's ideas of 'normality')
So El Chopo is pretty great. And I was extremely happy to find both discs by the Argentine band Entre Rios, who I LOVE but have not been able to find anything from, even in Buenos Aires. They are sort of like a Latin Portishead crossed with Bjork or something. Absolutely beautiful, and by asking around at several booths I found them. I am psyched.
Me and Jacob wandered around there for awhile and then took the metro downtown to find a good bookstore we'd been told of. There I found the new book about the Juarez femicides that I blogged about a few days ago, 'Cosecho de Mujeres'. Next we went to find the Plaza de Computacion, another huge market, but instead of countercultural paraphenalia it was all computer stuff. Jacob had dropped the power adapter to his laptop in water last week and had to find a new one. It was an incredible experience, wandering this giant maze of little glass cubicles full of high technology. Jacob asked around at like 8 different places, and then we met this guy who was like a freelance bargain hunter, who asked what we wanted and then went running off looking for it, and finally found it for a better price than we had found yet. Jacob ended up paying 650 pesos for it. Which I assured him was cheaper than what you would pay in the states, I'm sure.
We got a cheap but good mexican lunch next and then I had to figure out how to make a call to El Paso to talk to a video guy who might be helping me in Juarez. It was the first time I've had to call back to the States from Mexico so it was a challenge. They don't really have 'locutorios' or 'casetas de llamadas' here in D.F. like they do in lots of other places in Latin America, so I had to go find a place to buy a phone card, then find a card phone, then figure out what to dial to make an international call (001) to the States. Finally I got through. Things might be looking okay. We will see.
Okay, now to go pack, make my way to the bus station, and be on my way to a couple days to relax by the sea until i start work again on my Juarez film.
as PCASC has just said in an email to their list:
The Senate Finance Committee takes up CAFTA on Tues. June 14th!! This
is part of a process called a mock mark-up, which allows Senators to
state their positions and frame the debate, without actually starting
the CAFTA fast-track time clock ticking...
So, if a senator from your state is on the Finance Committee, call him up and tell him to vote against CAFTA. This is the time.
A new book is just out about the Juarez murders, called Cosecha de Mujeres (Harvest of Women), by Diana Washington Valdez, a reporter for the El Paso Times who has been following this subject for many years. Even though it's in Spanish only, I may get it, it sounds like an excellent analysis of the situation. And it would be good practice. Nothing like practicing reading spanish with something you're really motivated to read.
In other news, I made it Mexico City with no real troubles. I'm staying in the area of the city called Roma, at the Centro Medios Libres (Free Media Center), sort of like an indymedia center but different. I'll explain more when I understand more.
The worst thing about getting there was the metro here in D.F. It's actually a really nice, modern transit system, but its insanely crowded, especially when I got to town, which was about 9am, rush hour. Trying to fit me and my bags on a train absolutely full to bursting with people was not fun. I waited till the rush started dying down and finally made it.
Anyway, so far D.F. is way nicer than I expected. I had visions of a pollution-choked hellhole but the air quality, at least today, is not that bad, and the central part of the city is pretty pleasant. I visted the Palacio Nacional this afternoon, where a bunch of Diego Rivera's famous murals are. Really great.
There's a story from yesterday's El Paso newspaper that's sort of interesting about the new special Juarez prosecutor, Mireille Roccatti Velásquez, appointed (and replacing the old one, Lopez Urbina) by the new Mexican attorney general last week (whose name translates literally to 'Cow Head'). I'd hate to have her job. It's a hard one but I guess for the Mexican Government someone's got to pretend like they're doing it. (was that too cynical? I'm sorry....)
I'm tommorrow heading to what foreigners call Mexico City and what Mexicans call simply Mexico, or D.F., Distrito Federal. I'm all set to meet several Indymedia Mexico people there, and I've also been asked to speak at a gallery there called H4tch about Detritus.net and related things, at 7pm on Wednesday the 8th. That will be fun. Apparently on the next evening there will be the first in a long time meeting of a bunch of Mexico City Indymedia folks, which I can hopefully attend.
I finally met Jacob from San Diego IMC when he showed up here in San Cristobal again yesterday. Last night we hung out with Luz and Timo from Chiapas Indymedia and had lots of good chats about indymedia and various projects, here, in Guatemala, in Tijuana, and elsewhere...
It was funny that at one point I got frustrated with my ineptitude at speaking español (I'm now way better at reading, writing, or listening than I am at speaking it) and Luz suddenly said 'we can speak english.' I knew they could, but I wanted to practice. And yet, eventually we slipped into full-english mode, because we could convey so much more information together. It really shouldn't surprise me but the unspoken decisions to transition between common shared languages always fascinates me.
Now Jacob and I are both sitting in the Chiapas Indymedia office getting our internet fix for the day.
If you don't know what's been going in Bolivia, and/or you don't know why, if you haven't been following it, or even if you have but you don't really understand the recent historical reasons for recent events, you have to read Jim Schultz's latest blog entry. Everything he posts is excellent, but this one in particular is great because he goes back and explains the foreign pressures that have really been the cause of the uprisings going on now. And its an excellent summary case study of how the neoliberal, nondemocratic institutions which rule our world operate. They apply invisible fists to get their way, and when the people rise up and say they don't like it, others from outside who don't know about the invisible fists look and see a violent mob disrupting peaceful life. But who created the conditions that made that 'mob' get so desparate and pissed off? The IMF. The World Bank. Etcetera.
I'm tired of sitting at this computer and its an absolutely beautiful day outside, but I figure I should post something, since its been a little while.
(Speaking of tired what does it mean that the spanish word for tired, cansado, is so similar to the work for married, casado? hmmm....)
Anyway. This week I've been going to a spanish school here in San Cristobal called El Puente (the bridge). It's really good. My teacher Cecila is very competent and nice and I'm learning a lot. A lot of what we've been doing is going over and 'cementing' stuff I learned some of before but haven't practiced enough. From her I'm also getting more used to how fast Mexicans talk and how they pronounce stuff (there's more of that 'j' for 'y' thing here) compared to Guatemalans. Its also really interesting how teachers vary, in their styles and accents but also in what they consider proper. The biggest difference was Efrain in Oventic, with his Zapatista philosophies of how to communicate, but there are smaller examples that I've been noticing.
I'm staying with a family headed by a mother who has been working with the school for about 10 years and has hosted over 400 students in that time. wow. Her house is really nice, clean, and beautiful, and she prepares wonderul meals and is super friendly. There's a courtyard in the middle of the house, as is the norm here, with a really beautiful garden with lime and peach trees and flowers and lizards. The bedroom is the nicest place i've slept for 2 months.
Anyway, I've only got a few days left in San Cristobal. I have a few gifts to purchase and some preparations to make and then I head far to the north to Mexico City. I'm looking forward to my first visit to the second largest city in the world. Actually according to some, I've already been there, to Sao Paulo, and Mexico City is only 8th. But I thought it was Tokyo, then Mexico City, then Sao Paulo. Actually according to that same site the 3 largest urban areas, rather than cities, are New York, then Mexico City, then L.A. Then Mumbai, Calcutta, etc... hmm. Its all how you count it, I guess...