Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mexican Independence Day

It's been 199 years since Mexico declared its independence from Spain.
Mexico has been through an annus horribilis this year. There was the swine flu (which I think they handled pretty well), the horrible war on drugs (which will not let up until the US admits its culpability in the issue and takes measures to stop or legalize drug consumption here), a hurtful decline in tourism, the horrid unsolved murders of women in Juarez for which there is no explanation other than utter political depravity, the world economic crisis, plus a serious drought, hurricanes and earthquakes.  
Mexico is a great country, in many ways more progressive than many, with a rich history and a unique culture, (and the best food in the world), but it is still a developing country. How long is it going to take for it to mature its democracy and its social institutions? How much longer should Mexicans have to wait to have a fair and competent judicial system? How long do we expect the mistreated poor to wait for things to get better? They don't and with good reason; they all come to the States, where even as they are exploited and discriminated and persecuted, they have more of a chance of a better life than in their own country. Or at least they used to.
Rich in resources but rife with corruption and inequality, Mexico is forever poised to break out into magnificence, but it still lags behind. The reasons are many. It's a country with no social mobility, deeply divided by class and race, and very new to democracy. A country with an entrenched, parasitical bureaucracy.
It is, in my opinion one of the most surreal countries on Earth. As anybody who has ever spent time there knows, the concept of time in Mexico is elastic. If you are not versed on local subtext and context, you are going to feel like Alice through the Looking Glass. And despite the warmth and laissez faire of its people, there is a terrifying undercurrent of violent resentment.
Mexico is astoundingly beautiful, generous, and welcoming. Thus it pains me when I hear friends tell me they were shaken down by cops on their vacation in Tulum. It pains me when the perception of Mexico here, aided by the ignorant media, is of a lawless and failed state (lawless almost; failed, by no means). It pains me that most Americans really have no interest in the amazing richness that Mexico has to offer.

So congrats on Independence Day, Mexico, but I would say that it's time for Mexicans to demand better. More equality, more justice, better education, more lawfulness, a better democracy and a better life for all.

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