Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oaxaca Christmas tradition

Snack on ‘buñuelos’ and smash the plates Wire services
El Universal

Jueves 28 de diciembre de 2006

Oaxacans have a unique holiday celebration

OAXACA CITY - Rocked for months by a political conflict that played out in the streets, this southern city is now filled with the sounds of crockery being smashed, not in anger, but as part of Oaxacans´ traditional New Year´s celebration.

Residents serve "buñuelos" on the plates and later smash the china against a wall or the floor, and they make wishes for the next 12 months, which the majority of Oaxacans hope will be better than the past seven.

In May, unionized teachers launched a strike that left more than 1 million students without classes across Oaxaca.

The protests escalated in June when Gov. Ulises Ruiz tried to end the strike by force, a move that radicalized the teachers and led them to join with other grassroots groups.

Between June and November, at least 15 people - almost all of them Ruiz opponents - died in street clashes, dozens were injured and scores arrested, and the state sustained millions of dollars in damage and economic losses.

The buñuelos, which are made from wheat flour, milk and egg yolks, have a diameter of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) and are sprinkled with sugar or drenched in syrup.

Buñuelos originated in the south of Spain and are yet another example of the Iberian Peninsula´s Arab heritage, Oaxacan historian Rubén Vasconcelos said.

Vasconcelos is an expert on the history and customs of the capital of Oaxaca, which is Mexico´s second-poorest state and also the jurisdiction with the largest indigenous population in terms both of absolute numbers and as a proportion of the total inhabitants.

Buñuelos are served for dessert on both Christmas Eve and New Year´s Eve, and until this year were sold by street vendors around the Oaxaca Cathedral in the Zócalo, or main square, of this picturesque colonial city.

Due to the camps set up by protesters in the square and clashes between activists and police in the surrounding area, tourism suffered this year.

Although arrests - mostly on trumped-up charges - were made of protest leaders in recent weeks, the Zócalo remained under tight security over Christmas, with police preventing protesters from entering.


To maintain order, officials said, the buñuelos are being sold this year at an open-air market in the Plaza de la Danza, across from city hall and several blocks from the Zócalo.

The "sacrificed" plates are specially made in the potteries of Oaxaca, especially in Santa María Atzompa, where potters work with red clay.

"Before, the leading families of Oaxaca would break their china to welcome the new year with new utensils and throw out or toss the dishes," Miss Florinda, a vendor, told EFE about the tradition.

"You toss it and, when the plate is in the air, make a wish for when it shatters against the wall or floor, and your wish has been made and will come true," her fellow vendor, Sara Vasconcelos, said in front of a man-made wishing well used as a target for plates.

Oaxaca City´s tourism chief, Celestino Gómez, said the market was created to "unite the families of Oaxaca."

"This is an activity in which the city is taking part to present a range of foods and to jump-start the economy of the city and the state," Gómez said.

Enedino Reyes, a Oaxacan who visited the market with his family, was one of those wishing for better times.

"I have a small shoe shop and because of the problems here in the city recently, sales fell a lot, we don´t even have enough to pay the wages, or the rent. So I made a wish, to see what happens," Reyes said after eating a buñuelo and breaking a plate.

© 2006 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pueblito Canada

Correo Canadiense is a national newspaper serving the Spanish speaking communities of Canada. An article published in the Dec. 15—21 edition describes an organization named Pueblito Canada.

Pueblito is a voluntary, non-government organization that supports projects to improve the lives of children in Latin America and the Caribbean. For 30 years, it has worked co-operatively with local non-government organizations to implement a variety of intitiatives.

It has supported projects in Mexico, but currently allocates its resources to specific projects in other Latin America and Caribbean countries.

Pueblito Canada is a registered Canadian charity and issues tax receipts for donations. More details about Pueblito are found on its web site ( The site also includes a direct link to make a donation.

It's also possible to make donate to Pueblito Canada by sending a cheque directly to:

Pueblito Canada

720 Spadina Avenue
Suite 403
Toronto, ON M5S 2T9
(416) 963-8846
P.S. Mention CIASP

Update from Corinne Malloy-Smith

Many people made a donation to a project described by Corinne Malloy-Smith at reunion 2006. Corinne sent the following update.
We have good news to report to you. Armida and a team from Llamados Para Servir visited the rancho of El Tamarindo on Dec. 9th. This was the earliest they could get in because the road had been closed due to heavy rains and an impassable river. However, once in El Tamarindo the team lost no time in purchasing the land for the school/community building. The municipal government gave consent and the construction will now begin.

The people are all excited and have offered to help by donating their time, labour, wood, tools, et cetera. Others have offered to bring food and drinks to the volunteer workers. Many of the local labourers will be donating their time after a full day (10 to 12 hours) of working in the fields. The man in the El Tamarindo photo on the web was told by Armida that he and his child could be seen by people all over the world. This sparked such an interest that he now wants to come out and help with the roof !

Armida and her team will return to El Tamarindo on December 28th with wood, cement, and other building materials. A school/community buidling will be constructed that will accomodate 50 students, and a smaller room and bathroom for the teacher/pastor. This building will be used during the daytime to teach children and in the evenings adults will be taught basic skills such as reading and writing. During weekends it will be used for church services and community meetings.

The Mexican people are very grateful to CIASP for raising $1600 and GOJI customers for their donations toward this project. Many others have given generously as well. Thank you all for your kindness. With these donations we are able to begin construction of this building. However, a little more is required to purchase desks, books, and teaching materials. If you would like to donate to this cause in memory of a loved one, or to honour someone, or in lieu of gifts you can send donations from now until April to:
Come to the Waters Ministries
c/o Shirley Tye
6 Sparrow Court,
Little Britain, On
K0M 2C0

To God be the glory for He is our faithful provider.

Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Monday, December 11, 2006

In Memoriam: Lucille Mason

In Memory of Lucille Mason
December 2006

Lucille spent the last few weeks of her life in Rancho Nuevo — an outlying settlement of the Municipality of Pisaflores (“To Walk Over Flowers”) in the State of Hidalgo Mexico. Pisaflores and its smaller communities called ranchos, dot the interior and eastern edge of two mountain ranges forming the rugged Sierra Madre Oriental. To the west, mountains rise and gradually flatten to form the high altitude central plateau that dominates the interior of Mexico. The Municipality of Pisaflores spreads across a small thumb-print valley stamped into the mountainous region on the southeast edge of the State of San Luis Potosi, and the eastern border of Querétaro State. Even today, this municipio remains a remote location with few access roads — and Rancho Nuevo is the furthest and one of the most isolated satellite communities of Pisaflores.

One Canadian student who spent the summer of 1967 in Rancho Nuevo rememers that the only two visible artifacts of modernity in the settlement were a battery–operated radio and a steel pail used to haul water. (Maureen Kelly) At night, the Canadian students sat outside and marveled at the brilliance of the stars, and were given astronomy lessons by residents who knew the names of all of the constellations of the northern sky.

The rio Moctezuma is the main physical barrier blocking Pisaflores and Rancho Nuevo from the outside world. The western mountains are too rugged for vehicular access, and communities of this northern Hidalgo municipio are accessed from the eastern side. The Rio Moctezuma tumbles east and north from its origin in central Mexico near the archeological ruins at Tula, turns further to the northeast as it rambles around the outskirts of Pisaflores municipality and then makes a near 90º turn to continue around a spit of a mountain and past Rancho Nuevo. Tula is the legendary home of the famed Mexican deity Quetzacoatl, the Plumed Serpent, and the river Moctezuma that defines the limits of Pisaflores to the south and east is named after a great emperor of the Mexica people. Rancho Nuevo also lies on the west bank and the river physically separates it from the modern world and the national highway 85 high carved out of the mountainside a few hundred metres above its east bank.

Rancho Nuevo is situated on the northern Hidalgo and the southeastern San Luis Potosi state borders, a short 2 kilometres from a beautiful city named Tamazunchale in San Luis Potosi state. This is deep in the heart of the Huasteca region, and is famous for beautiful flowers, an abundance of birds and fascinating folk music traditions. Rancho Nuevo sits in a pastoral setting with a large meadow on its south, and has an abundance of tropical flowers and amazing variety of birds that thrive in its remoteness and proximity to water. More than 200 species of birds have been identified in this area, including different species of brilliantly coloured Toucans that nest in the trees and gardens of homes. Later in the summer, the neighbouring fields are filled with mariposas — beautiful blue butterflies that make the tropical sky even more azure in the early morning. Not far from here, in mountains to the west, lies the beautiful town of Xilitla (He-leet-la) where the regional abundance of exotic flowers, butterflies and numerous bird species attracted a wealthy Englishman named James Edwards. He came there to create a garden devoted to orchids in 1961— just a few short years before Lucille would spend the last weeks of her life in Rancho Nuevo.

Lucille spent most of her time living and working near the largest wooden building in Rancho Nuevo. It dominated the west side of the settlement and served as community hall, church, school and then as the dormitory for Canadian visitors. The children of Rancho Nuevo were fascinated by the strangers from Canada and early in the mornings gathered outside of the paneless windows of the building and peeked in with amusement. Canadian students who spent time in Rancho Nuevo remember being awakened by the sound of morning roosters the beautiful faces of smiling children outside of the school anxiously urging them to get the day underway.

It was in this beautiful tropical place that Lucille worked and played with the children, taught them in the school, and eventually fell ill. It was from here that the concerned residents carried her up an impossibly steep incline to the highway on the other side of the river so that her fellow Canadian students could transport her to a small hospital in Tamazunchale. When it was obvious that she was very sick, the doctors in Tamazunchale hoped to save her by sending her to Mexico City in an ambulance. But it wasn’t to be, and she died there on June 4, 1967. Her body was returned to her grieving family and friends in Montreal. She was in her 20th year of life when it tragically ended.

The last few weeks of her life were spent in an absolutely beautiful setting sharing the days with warm and kind people who greatly appreciated her presence, and were attracted to her beautiful and welcoming smile. There must be some consolation in knowing that her last images from this earthly world were filled with birds, butterflies, flowers and the smiling faces of children. Her death was a tragedy that affected everyone that knew her and even those who had not met her personally. It especially affected every Canadian student who traveled to Mexico with CIASP and left a deep and lasting impression that has never faded. I am continually amazed at how many people think of Lucille and remember her after all these years.

Recently, I found a poem called From within the Heavens written by a Mexica poet, and in reading it I couldn’t help but think of Lucille. The Mexica, who later were called the Aztecs, produced many skilled and famous poets, and in their Nahuatl language the term for poetry is a combination of two words — flowers and songs. Mexica poetry often presented sophisticated themes lamenting the transience of life and the meaning of death.

Pisaflores Municipal Glyph
From within the Heavens
by Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin
(translated by Miguel León-Portilla)

From within the heavens they come,
the beautiful flowers, the beautiful songs,
but our yearning spoils them,
our inventiveness makes them lose their fragrance,
although not those of the Chichimec prince Tecayehuatzin.
With his, rejoice!

Friendship is a shower of precious flowers

White tufts of heron feathers
are woven with precious red flowers,
among the branches of the trees
under which stroll and sip
the lords and nobles

Your beautiful song is a golden wood thrush

most beautiful, you raise it up.
You are in a field of flowers.
Among the flowery bushes you sing.
Are you perchance a precious bird of the Giver of Life?
Perchance you have spoken with God?
As soon as you saw the dawn, you began to sing.
Would that I exert myself, that my heart desire,
the flowers of the shield, the flowers of the Giver of Life.

What can my heart do?

In vain we have come, we have blossomed forth on earth.
Will I have to go alone like the flowers that perish?
Will nothing remain of my name?
Nothing of my fame here on earth?
At least my flowers, at least my songs!

What can my heart do?

In vain we have come,
we have blossomed forth on earth.
Let us enjoy, O friends,
here we can embrace.
We stroll over the flowery earth.
No one here can do away with the flowers and the songs,
they will endure in the house of the Giver of Life

Earth is the region of the fleeting moment.

Is it also thus in the Place Where in Some Way One Lives?
Is one happy there?
Is there friendship?
Or is it only here on earth
we come to know our faces?

León Portilla, Miguel. 1992.
Fifteen poets of the Aztec world. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

The poet’s lament is an articulate vision about the ultimate meaning of life and death, friendship and memory: “What can my heart do? In vain we have come, we have blossomed forth on earth. Will I have to go alone like the flowers that perish? Will nothing remain of my name?”

The tragedy of Lucille’s death plunged each of us immediately into deep shock and we had no answers that could make sense of such an insensible event. But after four decades, do any of us still wonder whether her life was as fleeting as the beautiful flowers and songs of birds in Rancho Nuevo? Consider this — after all of this time there still are hundreds of people who remember her presence and admire the kindness and caring life she lived. The strength of those memories are a powerful statement that she had a real presence among us, and that there are powerful emotions attached to hearing her name. How can such deeply felt memories be meaningless when they remind of us of beauty, caring, butterflies, flowers, birds and song?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Apocalypto...How do the Maya feel?

Formato de impresión patrocinado por

Mayas excited about new Mel Gibson film
Wire services
El Universal

Jueves 07 de diciembre de 2006

Scenes of enslaved Maya building temples for a violent, decadent culture in Mel Gibson´s new film "Apocalypto" may ring true for many of today´s Mayas, who earn meager wages in construction camps, building huge tourist resorts on land they once owned

Scenes of enslaved Maya building temples for a violent, decadent culture in Mel Gibson´s new film "Apocalypto" may ring true for many of today´s Mayas, who earn meager wages in construction camps, building huge tourist resorts on land they once owned.

Some Mayas are excited at the prospect of the first feature film made in their native tongue, Yucatec Maya. But others among the 800,000 surviving Mayas are worried that Gibson´s hyper-violent, apocalyptic film could be just the latest misreading of their culture by outsiders.

"There has been a lot of concern among Mayan groups from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, because we don´t know what his treatment or take on this is going to be," said Amadeo Cool May of the indigenous defense group "Mayaon," or "We are Maya."

"This could be an attempt to merchandize or sell the image of a culture, or its people, that often differs from what that people needs, or wants," Cool May said.

Gibson employed Mayas, most of whom live on the Yucatán Peninsula, in the filming of the movie, and says he wants to make the Mayan language "cool" again, and encourage young people "to speak it with pride."

The film has been screened for some U.S. Indians, who praised the use of indigenous actors. The Mayas haven´t seen it yet, but like Indians north of the border, they have seen others co-opt their culture, as in high-class Caribbean resorts like the Maya Coast and the Maya Riviera.

But the indigenous are largely absent from those beach resorts, where vacationers tour mock "Maya Villages" or watch culturally inaccurate mishmashes with "Maya Dancers" performing in feather headdresses and facepaint.

"The owners are often foreigners who buy up the land at ridiculously low prices, build tourism resorts and the Mayas in reality are often just the construction workers for the hotels or, at best, are employed as chamber maids," said Cool May.

"Apocalypto" also portrays Maya civilization at a low moment, just before the Spaniards arrived, when declining, quarreling Maya groups were focused more on war and human sacrifice than on the calendars and writing system of the civilization´s bloody but brilliant classical period.

Outsiders´ views of the Maya have long been subject to changing intellectual fashions. Until the 1950s, academics often depicted the ancient Mayas as an idyllic, peaceful culture devoted to astronomy and mathematics. Evidence has since emerged that, even at their height, the Mayas fought bloody and sometimes apocalyptic wars among themselves, lending somewhat more credence to Gibson´s approach.

Warrior-kings and priests directed periodic wars among the ancient Maya aimed at capturing slaves or prisoners for labor or human sacrifice. Entire cities were destroyed by the wars, and whole forests cut down to build the temples.

The latest trendy theory is a largely Internet-based rumor that the Maya long-count calendar predicts a global calamity on Dec. 22, 2012. Some have woven that together with prophecies from the Bible.

Mauricio Amuy, a non-Maya actor who participated in the filming of Apocalypto, says the production staff discussed the theory on the set.

"We know the Bible talks about prophecies, and that the Mayas spoke of a change of energy on Dec. 22, 2012, and it (the movie) is somewhat focused on that," Amuy said. "People should perhaps take that theory and reflect, and not do these things that are destroying humanity."


While they resisted the Spanish conquest longer than most of the indigenous groups - the Mayas´ last rebellion, the War of the Castes, lasted until 1901 - many were virtually enslaved until the early 1900s on plantations growing sisal, used for rope-making, or in the jungle, tapping gum trees. Discrimination and poverty are probably their greatest enemies today.

Just as Gibson´s use of Aramaic in "The Passion of Christ" sparked a burst of interest in that language, some Maya are hoping "Apocalypto! will do the same for their tongue.

"I think it is a good chance to integrate the Mayan language ... for people to hear it in movies, on television, everywhere," said Hilaria Mass, a Maya who teaches the language at Yucatán´s state university.

Mass, 65, recalls that children were once prohibited from speaking Maya in school. There is still little bilingual education, and many of those who speak Maya can´t read it.

One sign of progress is Yucatán radio station XEPET, "The Voice of the Mayas," which began broadcasting in the indigenous language in 1982. While it began with a mixed Spanish-Maya patois, it now broadcasts in 90 percent pure Maya.

The station is trying to purge words borrowed from Spanish and revive a purer form of Maya. It broadcasts all sorts of music - from rock to rap to reggae - with Mayan lyrics.

Still, the percentage of Maya speakers in Yucatán fell from 37 percent in 2000 to 33.9 percent by 2005. Paradoxically, for a state that advertises the glories of the Maya culture for tourists, it is having a hard time keeping the present-day Maya there; many are migrating to the United States.

"For tourists, that´s what sells ... what catches their attention are the archaeological sites," said Diana Canto, director of the Yucatán Institute for the Development of Maya Culture. "We are trying to sell them on the living Mayas too, so that people get to know their cultural richness."

Today´s Maya are known mainly for their elaborate rhyming jokes, a cuisine based on pumpkin and achiote seeds, and loose embroidered white clothing. They´re largely peaceful farmers and masons who carry their goods on ubiquitous three-wheeled bicycles over table-flat Yucatán.

Interestingly, some Mayas reach much the same conclusion as Gibson´s movie, which focuses on one man´s struggle to save his family as a metaphor for saving the future of a people.

"Our culture hasn´t been destroyed, because the family is the base of it," says Maas. "Perhaps some material things have been destroyed, but the real basis of the culture is what a family teaches their children, and that survives, and has survived."

© 2006 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ponte tus piyamas

Put on your pajamas and get to's time to go to sleep.
After seizing the podium and protecting it from the PRD, deputies of PAN and the other parties settled in for the night. Videos of the event posted on El Universal indicate that pillows, blankets and even pajamas were brought out.

A link at captures the legislators settling in for the night. The picture immediately to the left shows a couple of the legislators tucked in and protecting their view of democracy.

I don't know who these deputies are, but they appear to be men who might have been young students around the time of the "dirty wars" or perhaps were even participants in the protests that tragically ended with the massacre of students at Tlatelolco.

For some strange reason, this whole event reminded me of a poster that was given to us by Kris Purdy when she returned from Mexico in 1968. I wasn't in Mexico that summer, but many CIASP'ers were there in Hidalgo. Kris brought us a wonderful gift of a dozen lithographed posters of the student protest.

I scanned part of one poster and pasted it here. The students in 1968 were treated as insignificant complainers by the government of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and Secretary of Gobernacion Luis Echeverria. The poster below has a caption that ironically dismisses the students by telling them "Put on your pajamas...get in bed...because it's time to sleep".

Perhaps the deputies in San Lazaro should also consider giving it a rest, or at least recognize that they're following the same advice dismissively given by paternalistic government to dissenters 40 years ago.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Politics...Mexican Style.

Compared to Mexico, Canadian politics is downright sane and rational. This may sound like the wild-ramblings of someone who hasn't been paying attention to the current debate over "who's Québécois?", "who's most suited to lead the Liberal intellectual who lived most of his life abroad in ivory towers...a reformed New Democrat who is backed by the Liberal backroom boys...or perhaps a quiet francophone intellectual who named his dog Kyoto?" or "what costume will make Prime Minister Harper look uncomfortable and ill at ease?".

In contrast, consider what has taken place in Mexico over the past two weeks.

The loser of the popular vote in July, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO to friends and supporters), declared himself the president by Popular choice and appointed a cabinet on a national holiday celebrating the Mexican Revolution. He did this in Mexico City's main square (the Zocalo)— cheered on by tens of thousands of supporters — and while a parade of historically-outfitted revolutionary participants commemorating the civil war that killed millions of Mexicans converged on the capital from three directions. I didn't see any recent reports that there was a re-enactment of a famous meeting with Pancho Villa at the Bar Opera...but certainly there were gatherings in many bars saluting self-proclaimed Presidente AMLO with toasts.

Meanwhile, the location for elected legislators (San Lazaro) was encircled by newly placed security fences, and patrolled by both police and army in anticipation of potential trouble on Dec. 1st. This is the day that the actual winner of the election was to take an oath of office.

At the stroke of midnight on Thursday the 30th of November,Felipe Calderon Hinojosa became the new President and Mr. Vicente Fox Quesada became ex-Presidente Fox whose only concern was a retreat to his ranch in Guanajuato accompanied by his leading lady Doña Martita. It's uncertain whether Martha's sons will join their step-parents, or continue in their business pursuits that have made them incredibly rich during the presidency of their new father Vicente.

Aside from the fact that there is a new President, other facts were unclear as of November 30. By tradition, the former president presents a sash of office to the new president in the legislative assembly (San Lazaro). The incoming president then offers an oath of office before elected deputies in San Lazaro's Chamber of Deputies. Technically, none of this is constitutionally required, but the ritual is a long standing tradition emerging out of the Mexican Revolution.

Unfortunately, it seems that the new President was not really be welcome to enter the Chamber of Deputies...or at least wasn't invited with open arms by all of the elected members. And so, there was a rugby style scrum earlier in the week to "seize" the podium and carry out a strange version of a filibuster...except there no words and only pushing and shoving and a few punches...almost like the line-up here in Toronto last week among the people waiting to purchase X-boxes. The Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) managed to win this scrum and establish control over the podium, and their beefy presence physically kept the Partido Revolucionario Democratica (PRD) at bay.

As the deadline for transfer of power approached, PAN deputies continue to occupy the podium after a two-day sit–in and PRD members remained sitting like vultures in the chamber waiting to pounce on any weakness or open spot. PAN deputies were holding firm and save the podium for its leader, the new President and hoped that he would enter the chamber and swear his oath of office in the traditional spot...PRD remained on guard hoping that at least a few deputies would blink and let them take over the podium and thus prevent a new neo-liberal president from standing there to promise dedication to the constitution of 1917 and its revolutionary principles.

Pillows and Blankets were delivered to the PANistas occupying every inch of the podium, but apparently many preferred to remain awake all night singing traditional Mexican songs...probably the entire repertoire of José Alfredo Jimenez,Juan Gabriel and probably the sad and tragic songs of Miguel Aceves Maciel who died a couple of weeks ago. Apparently they serenaded the sunrise each day with a rousing version of las mañanitas — appropriate action for cock-of-the-walk roosters.

Foto is from Jornada, Nov. 30. credit to José Carlo González
More Fotos from El Universal are found here

No matter how this standoff ends, there will be a new president on December 1, even if no-one knows where he finally gave his allegiance to the country and democracy, or where he collected the sash of office from ex-Presidente Fox. He really wanted to go to San Lazaro and stand on the podium, but wiser counsel was arranging alternative locations and a plan B. It's also unclear whether Vicente Fox even thought about appearing in person beside Mr. Calderon, because a significant number of people in all parties are mad at Mr. Fox and his wife and believe that he spent the past few years of his sexenio in a world of his own imagination that they pejoratively call Foxilandia. It's sort of like Michael Jackson's Neverland!

And while this pillow fight continued, an incredibly violent teacher strike raged on in the beautiful city of Oaxaca. Teachers have been protesting for more than 6 months about a corrupt governor who refuses to resign. There have been many violent clashes and deaths, including that of an American photographer. Participants in the protest movement (APPO) are being arrested and dragged away from the protest lines and shipped to penal institutions in distant States. President Fox did not take the protest seriously when it began, and when he eventually acted he managed to create even more violence. Now, it's become the problem of the new President and a newly appointed "crack-down on dissent" minister of the interior.

The winner of the election, Felipe Calderon was busy appointing his new cabinet and presenting them to the press over the past few weeks. All are party loyalists, and stand for nothing new or visionary. His most controversial appointment was Francisco Ramírez Acuña who brings with him a hard-line, law-and-order, crack-em-on-the-head approach to protest and dissent. Even members of his own party warned him that this was an inflammatory choice and a dangerous move. Ironically, the appointment was announced on the same day that a warrant was re-issued for Luis Echeverria, another wealthy ex-presidente, and head of Gobernación under Presidente Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. Luis Echeverria was fingered in a lengthy and well documented report of being the trigger-man, or more correctly the intellectual author, of the so-called Dirty War of the 1960's and 1970's. Just last month, a massive report about the abuses and killings of the dirty war were published. I gather that Felipe Calderón has not had time to read this report because he's been too busy trying to find out where and how he can get the Presidential sash.

Meanwhile, on the northern border with the USA, there's real talk of building an actual impermeable wall to seal out Mexican immigrants. Ironically, the most concrete plans speculated that it would be possible to use Mexican immigrant labour to build this wall more cheaply. After all, there are an estimated 8 million of them working for slave labour in the United States. American nativists calling themselves the Minutemen, are patrolling areas where there is no wall with the hope that they can catch the illegal immigrants and turn them over to Border Patrol. Seriously, they have distributed T-shirts to some of their captives that say the equivalent of "I came to the USA and all I got was this lousy T-shirt telling me to leave".

A little further south, in the State of Sinaloa, an entire village of 21 homes was burned to the ground by narco-raiders, and a car carrying children was the target used for an "ajusticimiento de cuentas" (adjustment of accounts) by narco-competitors. The massacre of 3 children was a first in the extremely bloody drug-wars that have brutalized Mexico in the absence of strong government. But, what really upset the good citizens who voted for the President and the deputies who are in the pillow fight was a recent assasination of a Mexican narcocorrido singer Valentín Elizalde in Ciudad Reynoso this weak. His funeral attracted tens of thousands of adoring fans and overloaded with tributes. He has become the latest Mexican iconic hero overnight, and those fighting for the podium in San Lazaro have been reduced to insignificant status in the minds of the public.

Oh well, it's time to watch the Liberal Convention and feel rational.

P.S. The movie Babel by Mexican Director Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu is highly recommended. The confusion described beautifully in this film makes much more sense than the actual events in Mexico.

Frida Kahlo's Clothes

The Miami Herald/El Universal English Language paper in Mexico City printed a very interesting story about Frida Kahlo's clothing. The link to El Universal is posted here and should be credited if this story is forwarded or cited. But the story is reprinted below.

Clothing cache sheds light on artist’s life
Wire services
El Universal

Jueves 30 de noviembre de 2006

The trunk, discovered in the back of an old wardrobe that had been forgotten in an unused bathroom, was like stepping into the past

The trunk, discovered in the back of an old wardrobe that had been forgotten in an unused bathroom, was like stepping into the past.

Curators opened the lid to find hundreds of Frida Kahlo´s colorful skirts and blouses, many still infused with the late artist´s perfume and cigarette smoke.

It has taken two years to log and restore the nearly 300 articles of clothing. Next summer, the embroidered and sometimes paint- smeared pieces will be put on display at Kahlo´s family home- turned-museum to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the painter´s birth.

The exhibit will offer the public a new glimpse into Kahlo´s flamboyant and tortured life.

The wife of muralist Diego Rivera, Kahlo is known as much for her outspoken and sometimes outrageous style as for her intensely personal paintings. She survived a horrible trolley car crash and polio as a child, was openly bisexual and had an affair with Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

Her tumultuous life has inspired several plays and films, including the 2002 movie "Frida," starring Salma Hayek.

Kahlo was known in part for her fashion leadership, and was featured on the cover of Vogue´s French edition.

While most women at that time were turning toward simple, elegant dresses, Kahlo was wearing long, full skirts that borrowed heavily from Mexico´s traditional indigenous dress. She often had her hair in braids, and refused to remove a mustache or trim her unibrow, both of which she exaggerated in her signature self-portraits.

The trunk of clothes was found in 2004 during a renovation of her family´s home, where she died in 1954 after a life of nearly constant pain and dozens of surgeries for broken bones she suffered in the trolley accident. Inside were dresses, tablecloths and a letter from Rivera.

The clothes were a window into Kahlo´s life. The curators of her museum were struck not only by the actual garments, but by the fact that they still smelled of Kahlo.

"There is still a trace of that very particular odor," said Magdalena Rosen Zweig, who helped restore the clothing. "It´s ... the smell of a person, cigarettes, perfume. It´s a very particular smell, something that makes the clothing come alive. It´s something that helps you understand a person."

Some of the skirts were stained by Kahlo´s oil paint, and one had a small, scorched hole from a cigarette.

"We respected that during the restoration process ... because it is part of history," Rosen Zweig said in an interview.

The clothing was fumigated, studied, logged and photographed for an exhibit catalog.

Besides providing a comprehensive look at Kahlo´s style, the clothes also reveal how tiny she was. Rivera, more than 6 feet tall and about 300 pounds, towered over the 5-foot-3 Kahlo, who weighed less than 100 pounds. The disparity prompted Kahlo´s mother to nickname the couple "the elephant and the dove."

"She has such a small waist," Rosen Zweig said. "You can´t find mannequins her size. She had a tiny waist and a very small back. Everything about her was tiny."

Her body, crippled by disease and the accident, was the main topic of many of her paintings - stark self-portraits that depicted her unending pain and inability to have children.

She noted that the clothes showed how Kahlo´s style evolved. As a young woman, she wore high-neck blouses and black gloves that may have belonged to her mother. Later, she mixed loose-fitting dresses with ornate necklaces, earrings, flowers and hair ribbons.

Rosen Zweig hopes the new exhibit will spark interest in native Mexican textiles and clothing. She said it was hard to calculate the value of the clothes.

"You can´t put a price on the rescue of this collection," she said.

© 2006 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

Friday, November 10, 2006

President Fox's Very Bad Week

The following post is from El Universal (English Language Daily published by Miami Herald)
Fox can´t hide from troubles as term ending
Wire services
El Universal

Viernes 10 de noviembre de 2006

The very bad week of lame duck President Vicente Fox began shortly after midnight Monday with a series of guerrilla bombings, and it´s been downhill from there.

On Tuesday, Fox was ordered by lawmakers not to leave Mexico on an overseas trip, and he has since been captured on TV making indiscreet statements and been sued by his own lawyers.

Nobody was hurt in Monday´s bombings of a bank building, the country´s highest electoral tribunal and a national party headquarters.

But the incidents caught the attention of international investors who until then had figured the country´s increasingly restless opposition movement was largely benign.

The drug war raging along the border and erupting on the Pacific Coast already has money people nervous about doing business here. Now add bomb-throwing radicals to the list.


Mexico´s lower house voted Tuesday to keep Fox from leaving next week for a trade mission to Vietnam and Australia.

They said that Fox, whose six- year term ends this month, ought to be home restoring order in Oaxaca´s capital city, where thousands of federal police and protesters have been battling for weeks.

Vietnam, maybe, said lawmakers, where the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation will hold a two-day summit. But the lawmakers weren´t buying a four-day stopover in Australia, Mexico´s 32nd largest trading partner and home to one of Fox´s daughters.

"It´s great that the daughter of President Fox went to study in another country," said federal lawmaker Erick López Barriga. "But maybe it would be better for him to make a working visit to Oaxaca; better to go to the border; better that he stay and try to resolve the security problems in our own country."

It was an old story for Fox, who lost his reform battles on taxes, energy and labor in Congress, and he reacted angrily to the humiliation.

"We can´t allow, in this time of democracy, the president to be kidnapped because of a few people," he said that night.


The next morning, Fox´s former attorneys filed a lawsuit alleging that he neglected to pay them US$3 million in legal bills he ran up to defend against charges of laundering money from U.S. donors in his 2000 presidential campaign.

A fear of U.S. interests buying a Mexican election makes it illegal to receive foreign donations or campaign abroad.

The case had been seen as a slam-dunk against Fox but attorney Arturo Quintero won it, with the only penalty being a fine paid instead by Fox´s National Action Party.

"I worked a long time and got very good results," Quintero said in a radio interview.

The president agreed personally to square the legal bill more than year ago, said Quintero, who added that he still hasn´t seen a dime. "It´s a private matter between them," said Fox spokesman Rubén Aguilar.


Fox again made headlines Thursday, when newspapers reported, and broadcasted, him telling a TV interviewer at Los Pinos, the presidential residence: "I can say whatever stupid thing I want. Really. I´m getting ready to leave."

Tall and strapping, even at 64, Fox is popular and engaging in a crowd. But his image has weakened.

The list of complaints against him is long, beginning with poor job growth, his failure to settle with angry Oaxacan protesters and his inability to stem the corruption, kidnappings, beheadings, dismemberment, body burnings and other grim fall-out of the country´s drug wars.

He also suffered the ignominy of the sabotage of his last State of the Nation by sympathizers of losing presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador,

As if things couldn´t get any worse, there´s a cumbia-style pop song, "Fox, Hand it Over and Leave," sharing the airwaves these days with his publicly funded touts.

The last verse of the Guillermo Zapata song, very roughly translated: "You´re going back to your ranch to milk a (cow) vaca, because you couldn´t fix Oaxaca."

Carlos Martínez and Cecilia Sánchez of the Times´ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

© 2006 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Giant Tamales: Zacahuiles

In parts of Hidalgo, giant tamales are made for fiestas. Here are two links to information about los tamales grandes de Hidalgo y la huasteca.

Mexico Desconocido: Zacahuil (English)

La Jornada: Lo Mas Grande de todos los Zacahuiles (Espanol)

The picture above is from the travel magazine Mexico Desconocido.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

CIASP Diary: CIASP Diary: Revised reunion pictures

CIASP Diary: CIASP Diary: Revised reunion pictures

Modern Twist to Ancient Traditions

Celebrations of Day of the Dead are thriving in Mexico, and the great diaspora of Mexicans living across la linea (approximately 7-8 million) has increased in popularity throughout the American southwest. Las Calacas (skeletons, bones) now have an iconic status on the American side of the border!

Day of the Dead is rooted in ancient customs — both Aztec and Catholic — but, it's not immune to the impact of modernization and globalization. I've attached an internet link and a news report from the November 2 issue of La Jornada online: it describes research intended to genetically modify the golden flower placed on traditional ofrendas (home altars) and brought to the panteones (graveyards) for the Day of the Dead ceremonies on Nov. 1 and 2. The Mexican scientists hope to improve on natural brilliance.

Perhaps these Mexican scientists are motivated by the historical usurpation of another Mexican flower and they are doing this with the best intention. It is possible that they're simply establishling a Mexican proprietary claim to cempasúchil and to protect cultural claims to the Day of the Dead traditions. After all, the Christmas plant that we all place in our homes in December — the Poinsettia — was also a native Aztec plant that was also used in colonial Mexico for the cultural tradions of Christmas and las posadas. In Mexico, the Poinsettia is still called by its original name — La Flor de Noche Buena (the flower of holy night). It was an American, Joel Roberts Poinset, who introduced it into the US after he discovered it and issued a patent on it (see the history of Poinsettia) . The usurpation of custom was so thorough that the native Flor de Noche Buena was even banned from import into the US and supported by American patent law.

The matter of genetic modification is a thorny and significant — issue in Mexico. Natural variants of corn used for tortillas are gradually being replaced by genetically modified versions where the seeds are controlled by transnational groups— much to the dismay of Mexicans. They're not simply worried about the unknown long-term impacts on nutrition and flavour— they're genuinely concerned about long-term economic impact on agricultural production in Mexico. ¿Fijase?(would you believe)— the largest tortilla maker in Mexico has just opened a massive tortilla production plant in Shanghai China!

The following article is in Spanish...the original link is in La Jornada from Nov. 2, 2006

Modifican genéticamente la flor de cempasúchil; mejora pigmentos

Solecito Se usa como suplemento alimenticio de aves de corral y colorante de las yemas de huevo



Buena fuente de carotenoides, la flor de muertos tapiza con su amarillo intenso tumbas y ofrendas. La imagen, en el Panteón de Dolores este primero de noviembre Foto María Meléndrez Parada

La flor de cempasúchil, típica de esta época y que durante las tradicionales fiestas de Día de Muertos adorna con su clásico color amarillo intenso las ofrendas, los altares y panteones de todo México, ha sido modificada genéticamente por un grupo de científicos mexicanos para obtener mejores pigmentos de uso agropecuario e industrial.

La flor genéticamente mejorada por Octavio Paredes López, ex presidente de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias y miembro del Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (Cinvestav-IPN) Unidad Irapuato, junto con sus colaboradores, produce pigmentos más intensos obtenidos de compuestos llamados xantofilas, en especial uno de ellos, la luteína, contenida en la "flor de muertos".

Los científicos identificaron varios genes como los denominados Psy, Pds, Lcy-b y Lcy-e, que están presentes en las sustancias que conforman el pigmento principal que le da el típico color amarillo a las flores llamadas científicamente Erecta tapetes, y que es una buena fuente de carotenoides, producto nutracéutico (nutritivo y con propiedades medicinales) de gran interés mundial.

"Nativa de México, se ha utilizado desde hace siglos como planta ornamental y medicinal", señala Paredes López, quien recientemente entró a formar parte de la Junta de Gobierno de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). "Se cultiva comercialmente y los extractos de la flor se usan como suplementos alimenticios de aves de corral y como colorante de las yemas de huevo."

Los pigmentos de carotenoides son precursores de la vitamina A en el ser humano y en animales, y se les ha asociado con aspectos medicinales en la prevención de enfermedades como el cáncer y males cardiovasculares.

De acuerdo con estudios de la compañía BBCResearch, el mercado mundial de carotenoides llegará a cerca de mil millones de dólares al finalizar 2006, y se estima un crecimiento anual de 3 por ciento. En el caso específico de la luteína obtenida del cempasúchil por Paredes López, se estima que en este año el mercado superará los 150 millones de dólares.

Benéfico para los humanos

Además de la pigmentación de huevos y alimentación animal, se usa como colorante de la carne de pollo, y desde 2000 se ha empleado en suplementos alimenticios humanos, por sus efectos benéficos en la reducción de radicales libres y contra la enfermedad macular degenerativa (que daña la retina) relacionada con el envejecimiento.

Cempasúchil quiere decir "flor de veinte pétalos" en náhuatl, pero con el avance de Paredes López, publicado en varios artículos de revistas como Journal of Plant Physiology y Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, se obtuvo una planta con una mayor densidad de pétalos y una elevada concentración de pigmentos.

Paredes López, ganador del Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes en 1991, ha mejorado los métodos de extracción de las xantofilas obtenidas de las paredes de las células de los pétalos de cempasúchil, los procedimientos de propagación in vitro de las plantas, y la producción de harinas con alto contenido de xantofilas.

Disminuye la producción nacional

Aunque la flor de cempasúchil es nativa de nuestro país, donde hay 32 de las 55 especies conocidas, su producción nacional ha disminuido y el mercado internacional de carotenoides está siendo cubierto por países como China, Perú y la India, que buscan modificar genéticamente estas plantas para obtener mejores pigmentos.

De hecho, gran parte de la producción de cempasúchil en nuestro país está orientada al uso ornamental de las festividades de Día de Muertos, y se ha desestimado la investigación biotecnológica que le permitiría a México competir en el mercado de los pigmentos de origen vegetal, como la flor transgénica desarrollada por Paredes López.

"El gobierno y el sector agrícola no invierten en la investigación biotecnológica que permitiría incrementar los cultivos de cempasúchil mejorado ni de otras plantas tradicionales como la nochebuena y el amaranto", dijo Paredes López, uno de los biotecnólogos más importantes del país.

© Derechos Reservados 1996-2005 DEMOS, Desarrollo de Medios, S.A. de C.V.
Todos los Derechos Reservados.
Derechos de Autor 04-2005-011817321500-203.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Flower of the Dead

Today is the day of the dead and Mexicans visit the grave site of their deceased loved ones and family. Extra police and traffic-control are assigned to patrol camposantos and grave-yards of all Mexican cities and towns. The streets and roads leading to the cemeteries are congested and it's often necessary to put up barricades to control the traffic.

"El dia de muertos" is celebrated according to timeless rituals and traditions rooted in Aztec cultural practice. One central tradition is a dominant display of the golden-yellow marigold-like flower named the cempasúchil or cempoalxóchitl. It's used to decorate specially constructed "ofrendas al difuntos (altars memorializing the deceased)" erected in homes for the occasion, and cempoalxóchitl petals are spread around tombs and along the paths winding through the cemeteries. Xóchitl means "flower" in the Nahuatl language and "cempoalli" means 20.

The number 20 is important and sacred in Aztec mythology. Aztec society relied on two calendars to mark the passage of days. A "secular" calendar (xiuhpohualli) used 18 months of 20 "lucky days" and an extra "5 unlucky days". A sacred calendar (tonalpohualli) – the book of days — has a more important divinatory role. There are 20 days and each is associated with a day sign and with a specific god: the twentieth day has the flower for a day sign (Xóchitl) and is associated with the god Xochiquetzal.

A short description of the cempoalxóchitl and its importance to Day of the Dead can read at the following link.

An excellent web-site that explains the Aztec Calendar is found at

Sunday, August 06, 2006

CIASP Diary: Revised reunion pictures

CIASP Diary: Revised reunion pictures

Tribunal Decision about Mexican Vote Recount

The seven magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal unanimously agreed to reject a total recount of the ballots cast in the July 2nd presidential election.

However, the Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación (TEPJF) also ordered a recount of 9.07% of the voting stations. This represents 11,839 voting stations in 149 districts (out of 300). The majority of these districts are located in States and regions where the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón, won by an abnormally large number of votes. (Aguascalientes, Colima, Baja California are States with the largest number of recount districts).

This decision to recount only 9.07% of the voting districts has been strongly criticized by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and was called a "weak-kneed" decision. His party (PRD) and the Coalition for the Good of Everyone will continue their massive sit-in in Mexico City. This "megaplanón" has disrupted the capital by blocking main streets and business areas over the past 9 days. Angry crowds outside of the TEPJF chambers denounced the decision of the tribunal.

However, this massive sit-in and daily gatherings in the Zocalo has been surprisingly peaceful in spite of the great chaos and disruption it has created. In fact, the attorney-general has noted there has been a significant drop in crime during the past week.

The tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) demonstrators have been camping out in the Zocalo and in 17 strategic locations throughout the city. In the middle of the week the protestors held their positions in spite of a torrential storm that dumped orange-sized hail and flooded most of the downtown area.

The intellectual community in Mexico is divided over this ruling, but the majority of them are critical of the Tribunal for "taking half-measures" to resolve the impasse. On the other hand, the majority of intellectuals also seem to be surprised that the tribunal ordered a recount of 11,839 polling stations. There is a begrudging respect that the Tribunal took this unprecedented step...but a fear that this decision is not enough to stem the tide of anger.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Election Update: Stalemate continues

The PRD protests over the July 2nd Presidential election continued on Sunday with another massive rally in the Zocalo. Some estimates indicated that as many as 2 million people were in the downtown core for this rally.

The PRD and "Coalition for the Good of Everyone" insists that there was fraud and is demanding that the Electoral Tribunal supervise a complete recount of every ballot. The original ballots were placed in sealed transparent boxes, and the computation of the election results was based on a computer tabulation of results from "tally sheets" produced at each poll. The PRD wants the boxes opened, and the ballots hand-counted. There are now two main arguments used by the PRD and Coalition to justify their demands: a) the margin of victory by Felipe Calderón was excessively large (massively beyond the average number of winning votes) in polling stations located in PAN districts (e.g.Guanajuato), and in those districts where there were no PRD observers (only PAN or PRI observers), and b) that elements of the PRI, in particular Esther Elba Gordillo orchestrated a massive vote fraud in favour of the PAN candidate Calderón.

The PRD has organized a series of sit-ins, and promises not to leave until there is a ballot by ballot and poll by poll recount. Meanwhile, Felipe Calderón appeared before the Tribunal (known as TRIFE) to defend the honesty of his campaign.

The following summary "header" appeared in La Jornada today.

Los simpatizantes de Andrés Manuel López Obrador aceptaron la propuesta de instalar 47 campamentos: 31 en el Zócalo, uno por cada estado, y 16 en las principales calles del Centro Histórico y Paseo de la Reforma, hasta que se ordene el recuento del voto por voto, casilla por casilla. ''Yo también viviré -dijo- en este sitio mientras estemos en asamblea permanente. Sé que no es sencillo, pero es lo que sentimos más conveniente para la causa. Tenemos todos las pruebas para sostener que ganamos la Presidencia de la República''
Sympathizers of Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to the proposal to establish 47 sit-in sites: 31 in the Zocalo, one for each State, and 16 in the major streets of the Centro Historico (area surrounding Zocalo) and Paseo de La Reforma (the main street leading from Zocalo to Chapultepec), until there is an order to recount "vote for vote", "polling station by polling station". "I will live here - he said - in this site, meanwhile we are in a permanent assembly. I know that it's not easy, but it's what we think is most effective for the cause. We have all the proof to uphold (our belief) that we won the Presidency of the Republic"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mexican Election Impasse

Massive Rally in Support of AMLO on July 16

As many as 1 million protestors gathered at the Zocalo yesterday to protest the July 2 presidential election and to support Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The protestors had gathered from all parts of the country, many having started the march to Mexico City last Wednesday from State Capitols. Sunday masses in the Basilica were cancelled because of the congestion, and Security Forces of the Justice Department stated that it was one of the largest mass rallies to ever take place in downtown Mexico.

AMLO marched beside the prominent leaders of the PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democratica) leading the masses waiving yellow and black colours of the party. One ingenious float contained a papier-maché caricature of Felipe Calderón stuffing ballots into the clear ballot boxes used by the Federal Electoral Institute in all elections (Foto by Jorge Rios of El Universal-Mexico. During AMLO's speech, he was very careful to remind his supporters that protests must be peaceful and that they should obey the law and avoid confrontation. However, he repeated his call for a "vote by vote" and "poll by poll" recount of the ballots from the July 2nd vote.

The final vote has not been certified by the 7 magistrate tribunal, and the federal electoral legislation does not require a final certification before September 6. It should be recognized these challenges to the results are proscribed by the legislation and are legal elements of the electoral process. Both the PRD, and the victorious PAN have filed complaints before the tribunal, with the PRD registering the majority of complaints based on an assertion that as many as 60% of the polling stations had irregularities. The specific grounds for challenging the polling results have not been fully documented to the press or external observers, but there have been general charges of "ballot stuffing" in some regions. The total margin of victory by Felipe Calderón Hinojosa currently sits at 243,000 votes, and the PRD continues to argue that this is the result of organized ballot stuffing. There were 130,000 polling stations for this election, and an average of about 2 votes per polling station made the difference — and arguably a recount might easily overturn the process by including some discarded ballots and excluding questionable ballots. Of course, the assumption is that this will overwhelmingly favour the PRD!

One other issue has been raised concerning the actions of some members of the PRI who worked to support Calderón Hinojosa. In particular, a senior party member associated with the old guard of PRI (los dinosaurios) named Elba Esther Gordillo was recently expelled from the party because of her support for Felipe Calderón. Although it has not been directly stated, the implied accusation of PRD is that elements of the PRI resurrected "old style cheating" — el fraude a la antigua.

But most PRD arguments challenge the conduct of the Partido Acción Nacional before the election. In particular, they've criticized Vicente Fox Quesada for his involvement in the election (limited under Mexican Law), accuse PAN of using illegal campaign funds from business and foreign sources (again, tightly controlled under Mexican Law), blame the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute) for not acting quickly enough to remove offensive campaign ads produced by PAN (these falsely linked AMLO to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and raising the possibility of a US intervention if a leftist won), and also accused IFE of allowing PAN to tamper with the vote count.

There is no provision for a hand recount of ballots, but the PRD insists that this be done. It has also called on its supporters to monitor the 300 centres where ballots are stored to make certain that these are not destroyed. Most observers believe that the actual count of ballots was fair and above reproach, but supporters of the PRD do not have the same level of confidence in the "computer" count. The ghosts of 1988 election fraud continue to haunt Mexico, and the abuses of earlier PRI governments provides an important subtext and justification for the current challenge and unwillingness to trust the July 2nd vote.

Political observers have taken a relatively uniform position that IFE is above reproach in its count and processing of the existing ballots, but many of them have suggested that the only way to end the impasse is to conduct a poll-by-poll, vote by vote count to demonstrate that the election was transparent and fair. The public is not so certain that this is necessary, at least as public opinion is measured by opinion polls. Most of the recent polls indicate that about 37% of those interviewed are in favour of a recount — approximately the same percentage of people who voted for the PRD and AMLO in the election. The rally on Sunday was large by any count and is recognized as one of the largest demonstrations of "street power" ever. There are more than 25 million residents in Mexico City and D.F., and the rally represented a significant proportion of the entire population.

Meanwhile, Mexico is still in "limbo" and uncertain about what will happen in September. The transition of power does not take place until December, but Felipe Calderon cannot create a transitional government until he has received the certification of the electoral tribunal. The Mexican stock market (the Bolsa) has been reflecting this uncertainty, and all other institutions will also remain in a state of flux and limbo until the election has been resolved. The power of government and executive action rests in the President's Office (usually referred to as Los Piños, the equivalent of the White House) and the allocation of resources for Public Security, Education, Social Services and all other services are on hold and in an ambiguous state until the issue is resolved.