Sunday, July 27, 2008

US creates more jobs for Mexicans than Mexico

The Guadalajara daily newspaper El Publico published a story Friday that said the U.S. has created more jobs for Mexicans than Mexico itself.
Citing figures from the Mexican Social Security agency and the U.S. Labor Department, the article said that in the past six years, Mexico has generated 2.2 million new jobs while the U.S. generated 2.4 million new jobs for Mexicans.
The article said 14.4 million Mexicans have jobs in Mexico 13 million more have jobs in the U.S.

It is given that Mexico´s population is more than 100 million and that the World Fact Book puts Mexico´s labor force at 44 million, we seem to be missing some workers here -- about 17 million. It could be that the official figures don´t take into account people who don´t register for Social Security and the informal labor market. Still, there are an awful lot of Mexicans working in the U.S.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Drug gangs assassinate police, judges, prosecutors

In Thursday´s papers there was a report of a former mayor of a town being assassinated in his home by two hooded gunmen.
The police commander of the tourist police Puerto Vallarta, much visited by Americans, was assassinated yesterday along with his 9-year-old son.
They were in the family car, shown here, when two men attacked.

Not a day goes by that there aren´t more stories about assassinations of police, judges, prosecutors, army and federal investigators. They´re being killed at a faster rate than U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Update on Sunday, July 27: 15 people were murdered yesterday in four states, including four uniformed police officials, according to El Publico. So far this year, in the drug battleground state of Sinaloa, 67 uniformed officers have been killed.)

The vast majority of these killings are tied to drug gangs, either because these officials were doing their job and enforcing the law or, in a few cases, they might have been allied with the wrong drug gang.
Dozens of journalists have been killed in Mexico as well, often because of stories they had written or were investigating. It´s one of the most dangerous places to work in the world.

Mexicans fear that their rule of law is being undermined by the increasingly powerful drug gangs, who get their money from the U.S. market. We have lots of users with lots of cash.
Today´s El Universal newspaper website has a photo gallery showing ordinary Mexicans buying guns to protect themselves. This flow of money allows for big bribes to be paid to top government officials. It´s like Chicago in the 1930s. The Untouchables were so named because they couldn´t or wouldn´t be bribed and compromised. They were the few.

The other consequence of this flow of drug money into Mexico is that the gangs are extremely well armed, with everything up to and including anti-tank missiles. They get their arms illegally and cheaply from the U.S.

So far, Guadalajara isn´t a drug battleground. Mostly it´s in the north, near the border. But the drug gangs sent the federal government a message recently by assassinating the equivalent of FBI leaders in Mexico City, which is far to the south. The message is that we won´t be intimidated.

President Felipe Calderon has his hands full. And Mexicans can hardly be blamed if they resent that members of the U.S. Congress place the drug problems on Mexico´s doorstep.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bikes take over Guadalajara

Every Sunday the city shuts down a couple of main thoroughfares to all but bikes and pedestrian traffic. It turns into quite a rolling parade. Makes the city seem more livable.
Traffic here is always heavy. The metropolitan area is comparable to Baltimore in terms of total population, and everyone has a couple of cars. One of the big dailies had a story last week about the peak traffic hours, and the hour-by-hour graphic showed traffic at a high level from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m. I believe it.
You see lots of monstrous American cars, and getting around in traffic is tricky, which is a topic for another day.

Above and below are miniature ceramics that were part of an impressive exhibition of work from all over Mexico that we saw a week ago in nearby Tlaquepaque. The little cards in the display cases are the size of business cards, to give you some idea of scale. That´s Noah´s Ark on the bottom.

Tlaquepaque does a thriving trade by separating wealthy tourists from their cash in exchange for antiques and authentic handicrafts. We´re told that if we go to the next town over, Tonalá, we´ll get very nice stuff but at better prices.

Apparently, Mariachi grows on you after a while.

The Roman models of architecture are all over Spain, Italy, France and all of Latin America. Courtyards or atriums surrounded by the house, porticoes, arches and columns.

A fanciful sculptor´s bronzes of anthropromorphic furniture are all over the central plaza of the city. Cindy takes a break on one of them.

Work and home

Monday we move into an apartment on a busy street with all kinds of stores, restaurants and cafés in the neighborhood below. Our stuff from Baltimore should arrive this week. We took no furniture with us so we´re furnishing the place.

I´ve been meeting every day with various people at the University of Guadalajara who will be helping me to design the first course on digital journalism, which will be aimed at editors. We´re going to create it online, with an in-person part at the end of the course. The idea is for professional journalists to have the opportunity to work on the course on their own time and then break away for a week or less and wrap up the work.
Designing a course online is brand new for me. The University has a track record in this area and a lot of people with experience. They are excited about the project and pitching into it with a will.

Marriage survives on 2,959-mile road trip

The French Quarter

A road trip can make or break a relationship. We did pretty well during 12 days and 2,959 miles on the road.
It means accomodating some of the weird whims of your partner. Cindy indulged me in Memphis. I wanted to walk across the street from our downtown hotel and see if the ballgame was still in progress. We breezed past the bored ushers and gate-crashed to see the final innings of a doubleheader between the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Redbirds. Cool, I thought.
Then Cindy wanted to see the famous parade of the ducks in the Peabody Hotel across the street. People pack the lobby to stand around the fountain and hear way too much commentary about how the tradition began. The crowd begins forming about an hour before the appointed time. Seems that since sometime in the 1930s, there have ducks in the fountain. Each each evening at 5, they are led by a bellman into the elevator and up to their rooftop roost. From the fountain to the elevator takes about 30 seconds. The pushing and maneuvering for a good look take up 100 times that. Cindy couldn´t get a good photo. Still, she thought it was cool.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

32 miles to the gallon

To answer your question, on the drive from Baltimore to Guadalajara, Mexico, we got about 32 miles to the gallon in our six-cylinder, 7-year-old Toyota Solara (a sporty type Camry), and gasoline averaged about $3.90 a gallon, so it cost about $375 for the trip.
We drove as much as 556 miles one day (New Orleans to San Antonio). Days of driving, eight. Total trip time, 12 days.

A musical itinerary

As it turned out, the most direct route passed through Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans, so we decided to take in some music in all those places. In Nashville we went to see a live, two-hour radio show at the Grand Ole Opry, which included the Charlie Daniels Band, Craig Morgan (“International Harvester“), Little Jimmy Dickens (famous but I had never heard of him) and a fantastic bluegrass band led by Dan Tyminski, who sang “Man of Constant Sorrow“ in “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou“. In all there were eight acts, and it was a wonderful, high-energy show.

In Memphis we arrived at the same time as a huge biker convention, and Beale Street was a parking lot for Harleys, end to end. In New Orleans we took in some blues on Bourbon Street. Local guys, excellent musicians. Bourbon Street has some of the best and worst of New Orleans, from a few places with great music to topless dancing by female impersonators.

San Antonio´s River Walk
We arrived in San Antonio on a Saturday night and took a walk along the River Walk, a kind of sub-city along the San Antonio River lined with restaurants and shops.
San Antonio was charming. The Alamo is as much a public garden as a historical monument.

The Alamo