Are We There Yet?

Those of us living in Barra hope to see a new burst of growth in tourism this year with the effort being made to reclaim our beautiful beach. A project is currently underway to deal with the results of hurricanes and damaging tropical storms along the Barra beach by restoring the sand and reinforcing the stone wall needed to protect the restaurants severely damaged by Jova, one of the latest beads in a long rosary of disasters. Despite the mysterious ways of government – we share disenchantment with the corruption and inequalities of government along with our fellow Mexicans – we are pleased that Mexico is showing an interest in its coastline by regarding it as a resource requiring protection and preservation. We need more tourists here, and the U.S. and Canadian press have turned their backs on Mexico as a favored tourist
destination.

I can tell from my house, just a block away from the beach, just how often the operation is in progress these days. It’s full of stops and starts, mostly stops these days, but maybe that’s because of the weather. I like to think so. The concept of time, to the average Mexican, is something to be defied; punctuality is unimportant. And yet I understand, after 9 years of living here, that the so-called ‘maƱana syndrome’ is the result of an entirely different philosophy of time. Furthermore, the emotional prism of defeat and resentment through which Mexico views its problems is the legacy of unpardoned injustices from the past; contemporary problems – immigration, trade – also involve the clash of conflicting national interests, with Mexico sensitive towards its huge dependence upon American credit and investments, and tourists. Will they come or will they stay home? As the saying goes: ‘what would we do without the gringos? But we must never thank them.’ Ambivalence runs deep. Mexico is a people at the service of commodities, a people at the service of things. And freedom is a kind of commodity – a person can have as much freedom as he can buy. Mexicans have freedom of expression, though some can shout louder than others, by reason of power, wealth and privilege.

Isn’t it true that Mexico exists at the service of others’ needs, as a source of oil and iron, of copper and meat, of fruit and coffee, the raw materials and foods destined for rich countries which profit more from consuming them than we do from producing them? In fact, the feat of discovering America can only be understood in the context of crusading wars that prevailed in medieval Catholic Spain. They were after the booty of war. The ‘civilization’ from across the ocean that descended upon Mexico was undergoing the creative explosion of the Renaissance, and Mexico seemed like another invention to be incorporated along with gunpowder, and paper, and the compass. The plunder has continued down through the years. Mexico has suffered the curse of its own wealth.

Mexicans are poor because the ground we tread on is rich.

God help me if I ever help to reinforce the division of the present world in which the dominion of poor by rich, of weak by strong, is conspicuous!

The massacre of Indians that began with Columbus never stopped. The price of European avarice, terror and ferocity was Indian genocide. The Yaqui Indians of Sonora were drowned in blood so that their lands, fertile and rich in minerals, could be sold without unpleasantness, to American capitalists. The survivors were transported to the Yucatan, and the peninsula became the cemetery of the Mayans who had been its owners.

The riches that first attracted European colonizers, like gold and sugar, gave rise to a system of exploitation that led to the contemporary structure of plunder that I hold responsible for chronic poverty and underdevelopment today. A 21st century Mexico is still dealing with 16th century problems.

Is the project on the beach jarred and lidded and put on a high shelf? Today’s repast is tomorrow’s fast? But delays are not denials. We watch and listen, and for the most part we don’t interfere. We like to think there’s somebody up there who knows what he’s doing. Let’s hope the ship is fitted for stress and strain. Let’s hope it has a good captain who can seek out the currents and sniff out the wind to make the clearest headway.

We aren’t there yet.

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