Wednesday, November 26, 2008
El Universal newspaper is reporting that the number of temporary migrant workers who crossed the border to the U.S. slowed down between 2006 and 2008. According to a survey conducted by Mexico's Geography and Statistics Institute, the number of Mexican nationals who left the country for each one thousand who remained therein decreased in 42.3 percent.
By contrast, the number of immigrants who went back to Mexico didn't change.
More on the story (in Spanish), here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I have to admit I found about the news in the form of gossip only two weeks ago. A good friend of mine who lives in New York brought it up over the omelettes we both were having for breakfast in a Diner close to the Madison Square Garden.
"Did you know even Alejandro Junco moved his family out of Monterrey?," she told me while we were talking about a fixture topic among Mexican expatriados: who else is already living abroad, where are they moving and why. "Yes, se armó un relajo porque Junco no dijo nada en el periódico; se supone que nadie sabía," she went on to explain when I confessed I didn't know anything about it. Shame on me, I know. The story was really old; back from September. But apparently it only appeared on The San Antonio Express-News (a paper I don't read) and Reporte Indigo (a website I don't read).
That the Junco family has decided to move to, of all places, beautiful and great Austin, Texas (the place I now consider home), didn't surprise me. What really surprises me is the large amount of people who are still living in Mexico given what's been going on there for years. But what really struck me was that Junco's leaving didn't make news in Mexico, and that Junco himself decided to keep the news from his own employees.
As any therapist will tell you, it's hard to try to manage a problem or at least to discuss it when it's not even admitted. If you've read this blog in the past, you know its mission is about discussing this very kind of phenomenon. But no one will talk about his/her own experience. Not even the owner of one of Mexico's largest newspapers.
Monday, November 24, 2008
So, gabachos are totally freaking out over the worst economic crisis since Master Card launched its first 'Priceless' oblivious-leading campaign. You can see it everywhere. Been to Ikea in Palo Alto last Friday night, and, guess what, no one there. Even at Ikea, where everything is, like, trendy and cheap! Been last night to the movies, and, yep, it looked like Tuesday night. America (the state of mind, The Empire, not Ferrara, the actress) is feeling pasos en la azotea. For it's not used to this severe gloominess. Yes, every decade the United States' economy goes a little bit down before going higher up, but this one looks pretty feo, and it will get worse. Everywhere.
So, at this point you may be asking, "Dude, if the economy is doing so badly, what the hell were you doing at Ikea? Why not turning to Netflix to get some Sunday-afternoon foolish fun instead of doing movies at a ten-dollar-ticket theater?" Well, that's my point. For those of us who come from Latin America, the words Economic Crisis do not belong to the news, they belong to the memories of our upbringing. In Latin America, the act of surviving a financial downturn surpassed long ago the category of contact sport. It has become an Art. Latinoamericanos already know that getting totally scared about lack of money or opportunities or truth or plain future won't do anything good for us. Life is short and debt doesn't come back to haunt you when you're death. Let's live la Vida Loca, carnales!
(Yes, that's also why we're still down there in the C-list of developing countries. But that's another, rather boring story.)
Today's credit crisis will be big. They will make movies out of it in like, five, six, years time. And I already know how one of them will begin. I've seen that scene with my own eyes this afternoon.
Around 7:30 p.m. I stop by Supercuts on El Camino Real in Menlo Park (Northern California, Planet Earth) to get a haircut. I like Supercuts because its service is 1) Cheap, 2) Really Fast, and 3) Stylists there do small talk only for a couple of minutes. Once my cabellera is nice and trimmed, I drift to the cash register, and the nice stylist/cashier apologizes for 1) Not being able to accept my two-dollar-off coupon printed on the back of a Safeway receipt (the Supercuts that takes those is, actually, on Mountain View), and 2) Having a "problem" with the credit-card machine so she can only take cash. I apologize back to her because 1) I don't have a problem with the coupon, but 2) I only have $17 in cash with me, and since the haircut is $16 there will be only one extra buck for her tip. "It's fine," she concedes, with a sad voice. As I hand the bills out to her I feel 1) In Mexico in the eighties or 2) In any New York bar (I'm sure New Yorkers had it coming long before it all started, for their obsession with cash is not normal.)
So, anyway, I leave Supercuts and drive a couple of blocks north to the Safeway whose Supercuts-coupons didn't work for me. In a swift shopping mood, I carry three boxes of four-cheese frozen pizza, two gallons or organic whole-milk for my becerro-like children and a number of assorted salsas we ran out of at home (you can take the güey out of Mexico, but you can't take Mexico out of the güey.) Then I head to the self-checkout cash registers to pay and go (I love self-checkout! I have a crush on interacting with machines who don't require humans to operate, I can't help it) and the polite clerk who oversees the self-checkout area approaches me with a totally inappropriate old-fashion question: "Excuse, me, sir, are you paying with cash?," he asks. As I reply with a solid what-kind-of-question-is-that no, he goes onto explain, "We're having a problem with the credit card system in all cash registers and we are only taking cash".
At that point I turn my head to my left and stare at the eight-plus human-operated cash registers and I get the (Big) picture. All of them have come to a complete stop. Cashiers keep pushing buttons on their machines trying to make them work, to no avail. Middle-aged men wander around the paying zone talking worriedly on their cell phones with an expression on their faces that can only mean one thing: wife's on the other side of the line. A line of people of all colors starts to form in front of the only ATM-machine available in the grocery store. And, of all a sudden, I remember 1) The Economist this week's headline cover which I glanced at Borders this morning: "All you need is cash," and 2) A story I heard moments before on American Public Media's Marketplace on how people who (inexplicably) managed to stay out debt or who (inexplicably) have come out of it are deciding to go vintage Economy wise by paying all in a cash-only mode.
As I follow suit and get in line to get some cash from the ATM-machine I remember my frustration the last time I tried to pay with credit card at a gas station in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, around four years ago, and discovered that, OMG, they were yet taking cash only!
So, if the end of the world will come in the form of a financial crisis, I already know how it will start. Or started. Meanwhile, I try to bring together my inner Latinoamericano and my inner Immigrant-American and hold on tight to my retro-cool cash, trying not to worry (too much) about what's next for us in this Post-9/11-Post-China-and-India-Post-Everything-Goes-Bush-Era Hope-driven Obama-lead world and enjoying the ride. For if this downturn is like the ones I lived before, back in México lindo y que-pinche-que-el peso-se-esté-depreciando-tanto-carajo, it won't be the last one. And that, after all, can be considered all but a gift. From life, that is.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Oh, yes. It's here. November 4th. The Day that Will Define the Twenty-First Century. ¿Exagerado? Well, don't think so. When you talk to your Gringo friends and ninety nine percent of they tell you that, if Obama doesn't make it tonight, they will move abroad 'cause el Gabacho will become and unbearable place to live in, things are very likely to smell historical.
What's funny about this History-in-the-making Election Day, is that it feels so similar to the good old days when Electoral Democracy was still a dream in my country, México Lindo y Qué Violento Se Ha Puesto, Carajo. You know, the polls that seem not to be working properly, the excitement of the younger voters for casting their first vote ever, the Right-Wing Scare at the possibility of an Obama/Cárdenas/López Obrador win--classmates in Stanford are telling stories of dorm-mates who are voting McCain because they don't want their parents' assets to be nationalized by Barack 'That Sick Socialist' Obama or their taxes being raised--and the mixed feelings of fear and excitement and anxiety and emotion.
It's like Democracy is Upside Down, or being born again. The Whole World is watching what happens today. Here, in NorCal, friends of mine are already volunteering to ignite up the riots should Barry loses the election. Oh, I hope not. But they would be so if given the case. And to those who claim that will move abroad if Lovely Sarah gets the VP gig I have already advised to better stay at home. 'Cause out there no one will believe America really wanted change.
So cross your fingers, get your ass to the poll if have not and if you can, and let's hope for the best.
This Thursday in NYC, Amercias Society and The Hispanic New York Project will feature a panel discussion on the future of los libros en español en el gabacho. Is there an audience for these books? Are they publishing U.S.-based Spanish-language authors these publishing houses? When will Gandhi open its first branch in Manhattan or Mission District? Too many questions, right? If you have some more or want to hear the experts' responses, drop by, if happen to be in la Gran Manzana.
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