El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Archive for July 2009

“Vamos a Santa Maria” Lazaro Cardenas Has Come to Help Us

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A couple of blocks from my “hacienda” a guy sells used books in the entrance to a small downtown hotel. There’s the usual selection of sets of 30 year-old encyclopedias, outdated textbooks, travel guides and magazines. He usually has a nice collection of books on history, art, politics and music. They are almost all in Spanish. But he keeps one low bookcase just for books in English. The variety can be surprising, for example, he has a copy of a guide to American university graduate school programs from 1984 (I told him I had already read it). There’s always a few Danielle Steel romances, some books by Steven King, you know, popular American authors from the last century.

I stopped in last week and noticed that he had added several new books to the English “corner”. Well, I say new books but this group were mostly 40 to 60 years old. Nice hard-cover copies in really good condition. He said they had come from the same collection, he had bought them all at the same time. I saw at least two that I wanted to buy, but I decided on just one: Timeless Mexico by Hudson Strode, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1944. I’ve been reading it ever since and, in fact, have started rereading it already.

I suppose this blog should really go under the book nook heading, but Timeless Mexico is really a political history of Mexico up to the time of World War II, and it gives some very interesting insights into the ideals of nationalism and how they have been formed in Mexico through the last five hundred years. With the bi-centennial coming up in 2010, the material covering the last two hundred years is particularly interesting. I’m still reading it so I’m not going to bore you with a review, but suffice to say it is a very good book.

The name of Lazaro Cardenas, president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940 has been a popular search tag on WordPress. He is also one of the most popular presidents in Mexican history. He was a man for the people, but complex and he could be a skillful political strategist. I just have one story about Cardenas to tell from the book, but it’s a good one.

“Eight days after his inauguration he announced that the national telegraph company would transmit free of charge, every day between noon and one, messages from the public explaining to him their urgent needs.”

A wit conceived a joke, which circulated widely, revealing where Cardenas put the emphasis in  administration. The president was concentrating on work at his official desk one morning when his private secretary presented him with memoranda of urgent business. “Crisis with the railway workers.” “Pass it on to the minister of communications,” said the president. “Sisal production in Yucatan under par.” “Tell the minister of agriculture.” “Important message from the United States State Department.” “Tell the minister of foreign affairs.” “Big bank scandal imminent.” “Inform finance.” The procedure was interrupted by one of the free telegrams from a remote village, Santa Maria del Tule. It was signed by Juan Diego. “My corn perished with drought, my burro lay down and died, I have malaria, and my wife is having a baby.” Brushing documents aside, Cardenas rose with alacrity. “Order the presidential train. We go to Santa Maria!”

I just think that is a good joke but it also hints at the story behind the man. In the book it says that he never traveled with a revolver and refused to have a body guard. He would visit towns and villages unannounced, walk the streets and sit and talk with people on park benches. He had four main objectives: (1) To give land to all peasants who needed it; (2) to raise the living standards of workers; (3) to give everyone a chance at an education; (4) to improve the health of the country. Where Calles, the previous president had said, “The Revolution has gone far enough,” Cardenas said, “It has just got started.”

Written by El Fomentador

July 11, 2009 at 5:34 am

One Language For All! Simplified English

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Long ago, when I was in college, a very wise instructor once shared with me a valuable bit of her wisdom. I had commented that her office, crammed, as it was, into a  former dormitory room, appeared to be like totally organized! You could see the top of her desk for crying out- loud! Her in-box was empty! She promised to tell me her secret. (I haven’t told this to another living soul in all that time; well, okay I’ve told a few people, but no one else was that impressed.) With the knowing look that only a true leader can get away with, and in a suddenly hushed, almost breathless voice, she said:      “File don’t pile”. Well, you can imagine  the effect that had on me, or well, maybe you can’t.  Anyway, I’ve always been particularly fond of advice that rhymes, it makes it so much easier to remember. Not necessarily easier to follow…but,  I do still remember it. Read the rest of this entry »

Felicidades Waldo’s Mart

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Happy B-Day to Waldo

I like to give Waldos Mart a hard time. But I shop there, and I know lots of people that do. Last time I was there they had a new shipment of religious candles on the shelves…and not a ‘Holy Death’ candle in the bunch! Bravo, bravo, Waldo. I don’t know if there is an actual Waldo, but the big news is that the discount chain, with outlets across Mexico, turned 10 years old this year. In fact they had a glossy flier printed to help celebrate. It was something like 10 weeks, 10 items, 10 pesos, to mark 10 years. I’m sure you get the theme. So all I can say is:

Happy Birthday! ya’ big lug….

Gentrified Waldos

Probably the really big news, (for Waldomaniacs), is that the chain has started to go up-scale. Well, okay, there has been an attempt to go a little more up-scale. Actually, the new stores I’ve seen are in ‘roomier’ buildings, better lighting, wider aisles, with what would appear to be, oh I don’t know, a more thoughtful layout of the myriad of products offered by the great Waldo. True, the shelves still contain some of the same kind of crazy stuff from the four-corners-of-the-world. Like, for example, strawberry jam from Egypt, enjoy it with “Obrian’s”  brand peanut butter from China; spread some on your favorite crackers from Spain, Vietnam or Indonesia. The ones from Vietnam are kind of a generic “Ritz”, produced under the “Kihn Do” label, clever, huh?

Exotic treasures for the sweet tooth brought to you by Waldo from the Far East

There’s a variety of hard candies from a variety of places stretching from the Argentine to the United Arab Emirates. Don’t forget to pick-up some snacks for the kids. I especially like the “Fear Factor” gummies, but a lot of tiny tykes go for the Gummy Dinosaurs; a selection of bubble gum pops, candy-filled straws, marshmallows and assorted gumballs, (all of the above imported from China), should be enough to give anyone a sugar-rush, not to mention trace amounts of a hand-full of other, as of yet, unidentified chemical compounds. I shouldn’t really pick on China, but what the hell? I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that it can be cost-effective to export and distribute Chinese marshmallows around the world. I mean, what is the pay scale for a Chinese marshmallow maker? Read the rest of this entry »