Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Movie is the Message

I recently caught the movie “Frontera” at the Petit Theater here in San Miguel de Allende. It’s a drama (set along the Arizona-Mexico border) that grapples with undocumented immigration and the complex issues surrounding it. I hope it finds a large audience in the U.S.A. because, unlike most of the media’s handling of the subject there, the film does so in a way that is humanizing instead of polarizing.

Of course there is an Immigration System in place  with laws that need to be followed. I don’t think anyone disputes that. Those laws and that system badly need an overhaul and update, but posturing, politics, money and vitriol continue to stand in the way of Congressional action. In the mean time there is a perspective that must be easier to see from here — in the Central Mountains of Mexico — than from north of the border. That is, the visceral reaction to the issue has more to do with misplaced fears (based on ignorance, paranoia, and bigotry) than with concerns about safety, economy, or security.

There is a small percentage of “bad actors” in any corner of the globe; but for the most part anyone risking an illegal border crossing is looking for opportunity and a better life. Yet a certain faction of the U.S population is so angry/fearful about this action that they are driven to exact (or threaten) deadly violence. What are they so angry about that they will, as civilians, take it upon themselves to don camoflague, brandish military weapons, put finger to trigger, and set their scopes on complete strangers all in the name of “patriotism”?

Is it to save the States from disease? Some media have hyped the idea that the thousands (mostly women and children) that rode trains and walked north in recent months could carry sickness and be infectious. The recent arrival of an Ebola victim in the US has created a fevered pitch and brought some calls for shutting borders entirely. That disease came to Dallas, Texas from an area in Africa where its outbreak has been fueled by ignorance of basic sanitation and a lack of a health care infrastructure. Still, in the Lone Star State children are much less likely than their Mexican counterparts to have their vaccinations up to date or have seen a doctor when they need to. That’s because Mexico guarantees affordable health care to all of its citizens. Yet Governor Rick Perry has refused to accept Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act at no cost to Texas or it’s people. That means many of the more than 6,000,000 Texas citizens without health care could be insured with the stroke of a pen…..but they aren’t.

Is it economic patriotism? Would any of the these watchmen lining up shoulder to shoulder accept the labor that might be available to those that get across? Would they do that work? Would they want that work?

Is it safety and security? Despite the false portrayal of every street corner in Mexico being a drug-cartel shooting gallery ,my wife and I have always felt safe in our travels and in the places we have stayed in Mexico. But north of the border military style weapons are too often brandished by too many with too little training and too little regard for the potential consequences. Why are informal militias forming and setting up shop on the border? Are they really serving a noble purpose or are they exorcising their xenophobia and false machismo all at the same time on the same target?

Yes….it’s a movie…..but go see Frontera……and tell me what you think.



Taxi Drivers Party Too……….You Lookin’ at Me?

Friday night was a rough night to sleep, but a great night for a festival here in San Miguel de Allende. This weekend has been “La Alberoda”, the birthday of the patron saint of this beautiful town in Central Mexico, Saint Miguel Arcangel. That means the entire weekend is ceremony and ritual, dancing, decoration, and of course fireworks. The blasts and booms started around midnight and hit a crescendo around 4:30 in the morning. Our feral kitten Chuckie (who we adopted here last May) spent the night under the bed or under the covers. He’s loving and affectionate but has a highly developed amygdala.

Every one else in SMA has been having a great time…..and I mean everyone. Yesterday we saw children hoisting paper machet figures on poles march into the Jardin to have them blown up one at a time as they giggled and shrieked. We saw the majesty of beautifully groomed mounts and caballeros promenade through the square for the “Blessing of the Horses”. We saw parades of locals dressed as Native Indian Dancers from a bygone era…….and my obscure favorite……the Thursday “warm up” of the Taxi Motorcade where a long string of a few dozen decked out taxi cabs roll slowly into the square of the Jardin. And they make quite an entrance. Their horns honk, their alarms blare, their lights flash, and the driver’s smiles beam. Why not, and why shouldn’t they have a seat at the celebration too?

Many people wonder (and ask) why we would want to spend time living in Mexico…..and especially a town they have never heard of that isn’t on the beach. Typically their knowledge of Mexico is limited to the picture of danger painted by a sensationalist, ratings driven US media or a “bubble travel” trip to a resort town (Cabo, Cancun, pick one….any one). They typically go plane-shuttle van-resort-shuttle van-plane-home. None of that begins to tell the story of our experiences here.

We love the warmth and friendliness of the people, their work to live not live to work mindset, the beauty of the landscape, the casual pace of day to day life, the history and architecture and movies and dining all within walking distance. We love the simple pleasures here and the freeing feeling of escape from a culture of identity based (and measured) on conspicuous consumption and accumulation. And yes we have always felt safe here. Statistically we are safer than when we lived in Chicago or Oakland. But it really always comes down to the warmth and the joy of the people, and the feeling that any time and for any (or no) reason there is cause for celebration.

Nobel Prize Winning Mexican Poet Octavio Paz said “any occasion for getting together will serve, any pretext to stop the flow of time and commemorate men and events with festivals and ceremonies”. And everyone rejoices…..from the highest seats of government to the taxi drivers. And the taxi drivers not only want you to take a good look at them, but for all to join in.