The International Writers
Maybe he prays
to the spirits of Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara in a Santeria ceremony.
He would be imploring the spirits to grant another day of life to his
benefactor, George W. Bush, whose prosecution of the Iraq war has depleted
American military strength to such a degree that the American neo-conservative
Masters of the Universe can only observe in total impotence the utter
destruction of a Latin American empire that had been an unimaginably lucrative
American sphere of influence almost from the inception of the North American
republic, when the Latin American colonies, having thrown off the yoke
of Spanish domination quickly found themselves squeezed in the loving
embrace of their new protector.
Venezuelan President-for-Eternity Hugo Chavez surveys the oceanfront
leading to the Lake Maracaibo petrochemical region. If he doesnt
see an American naval armada poised to strike, he breathes a sigh
of relief and goes about another day of building socialism.
But nobody ever said that transforming this former fiefdom of Standard
Oil and the Rockefeller family into a freestanding socialist model economy
was going to be easy, and Chavez still has several pressure points of
internal discord to contend with. The U.S. military may be otherwise occupied
but the American intelligence services still have plenty of cash to spread
around and not a few willing Venezuelan operatives to help them spend
This is not to state that all of Chavez problems spring from the
head of Eliot Abrams and Condoleeza Rice. There are plenty of domestic
elements that stand against him out of distaste for his close association
with Fidel Castro. Or maybe families who were accustomed to running the
country for generations and now finding themselves dispossessed by an
uncouth cowboy are absolutely blowing their lid.
The latest crisis to bring the university students into the streets is
the Chavez regimes refusal to renew the broadcasting license of
their favorite TV network. Students in Caracas have always emptied into
the streets no matter who was in power. Ask Nixon. When he was vice-president,
Eisenhower sent him on a fact-finding tour of Latin America
to get him out from under foot for a while. What other reason would have
Eisenhower had, for Nixon to find facts? Nixon always made
up his own facts.
At any rate, when Nixon arrived in Caracas the students went berserk and
stoned and spit on his motorcade. Like Monica Lewinski with the blue dress,
Nixon never had his suit cleaned. He kept it as a souvenir and, returning
to Washington, barged into the Oval Office still wearing it to show Eisenhower,
Look, I want to show you what they did!
Anyway, the kids dont have Nixon to kick around anymore but they
still have to differentiate themselves from the previous generation, even
though the establishment they are protesting now is the one responsible
for giving them free university tuition, free medical care, money in their
pockets and subsidized food and rent for their families.
No matter. They want their MTV. The station they are fighting to keep
on the air has all their favorite videos and cartoons. This is a case
where the CIA finally got things right, feeding chickenfeed to an adoring
Tele-Maricón, its called, and it has all the features an
adolescent mind can appreciate. Since most of the programming is written
by Cuban exiles, a lot of the shows poke fun at Chavez personally, with
titles like Chavez al Carajo, a fictionalized account of the
president taking it in the butt during his student days at Patrice Lumumba
University; and Chavez Cabrón, a biography of his mother
working as a prostitute at the Caracas Fish Market. There was even a show
called Chavez Bailando Con Las Estrellas, a Venezuelan take
on Dancing With The Stars with computer-generated images of
Chavez dancing with Chairman Mao, Karl Marx, etc. For Chavez to get offended
at these innocent jokes shows that El Caudillo has no sense of humor,
and that he has not been indoctrinated into the North American mentality
of political correctness.
This writer, being fortunate enough to watch some of these broadcasts
through the modern marvel of satellite television, was intrigued at some
of the unique products being advertised on Tele-Maricón, products
not offered anywhere else throughout Latin America, like Pinochet
Lavadora de Cerebro, which offered a 4-minute brainwashing complete
with a free wax job for bald-headed men.
I located a Venezuelan bodega in Jackson Heights where I could obtain
a can of Tío Sam Sopa de Pato, duck soup with a distinctive
labeling showing Uncle Sam having sex with a duck whose head resembled
El Presidente. When I got home I was shocked, shocked! to discover that
there was no duck in the duck soup. When I called the telephone number
listed on the can, which was an Arlington, VA, exchange, to complain,
a message came on in execrable Spanish telling me ¡Chinga
tu madre y no me joda más, coño!
I anticipate that Chavez will hang on to power as long as oil prices hold
up and the U.S. military is otherwise engaged, but we cant dwell
on him forever, particularly when the natives are restless South
of the Borderrrr Down Mexico Wayyyy!
The beautiful thing, as a walk down any street in my neighborhood of the
Upper East Side will tell you is: you dont have to go to Mexico.
It will come to you. New Yorks Spanish-speaking population used
to be predominantly Puerto Rican. Then the Dominicans took over, and they
are rather more entrepreneurial than the Puerto Ricans, with a lot of
Dominicans getting rich in business and even more making a good living
running small enterprises, though a walk through Washington Heights will
reaffirm that most Dominicans prefer drinking Brugal rum and playing dominos,
while their women engage in the islands second favorite sport after
el beísbol, pitching bags of garbage out of second- and third-story
windows and trying to land them in the sidewalk garbage cans, which are
already full, in a kind of Washington Heights variation on Coney Island
skee ball, to the rocking rhythms of Los Pendejos de la Lachuga singing
Saque tu tanque por fuera
Llega el basurero
Yo soy el basurero
Que busca la basurera
[Stick out your can here comes the garbage man]
Having been blessed by the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic
on several past occasions, I know that the population there is endowed
with a very rudimentary concept of public hygiene. Due to an extremely
primitive system of solid waste treatment it is not possible to flush
toilet paper down the toilet. In the popular quarters each bathroom contains
a can for the disposal of paper wastes, which are then put out for regular
garbage disposal with the household garbage.
Unfortunately, early toilet training habits are extremely difficult to
break, and there is no public orientation to tell new arrivals to New
York that it is OK to flush toilet paper into the sewage system. Consequently,
some of the garbage bags pitched out the windows in the course of domestic
housekeeping contain not just traditional kitchen waste, but rather unmentionable
sanitary by-products as well, and when they miss their target they sometimes
burst upon hitting the sidewalk, which results in an unbelievably sordid
scene reminiscent of the ravine that traverses the provincial Dominican
city of Higuey, which has been used since time immemorial as a provisional
garbage dump and open-air trench latrine that the municipal authorities,
reasoning that most of the waste is biodegradable anyway, have neglected
to address. It is a far cry from the charming beach resorts of nearby
Punta Cana, let me reassure you!
In recent years, though, New York has, along with the rest of the United
States, been inundated by a veritable tsunami of Mexicans, who are more
reminiscent of Miami Cubans hard working, serious and focused on
the money than of the more personable hard-partying Puerto Ricans
and Dominicans who preceded them (this is an oversimplification, naturally.
Nor does it include many other large ethnic groups like the Ecudorians,
Brazilians, Colombians and Peruvians, all of whom exert their own distinct
fascination). Mexicans are here strictly for the money, and not to integrate
of assimilate. They know us better than the other Latin Americans, and
have no illusions about the kind of welcome they will receive here, and
they are prepared to take jobs that the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans wont
do so that they can send money home. They know what we think of them and
they dont care. Just show me the money.
When NAFTA was established, it was conceived strictly as a tariff agreement
without provisions for immigration or regulatory issues, unlike Europe
where it was understood that only a global agreement was realistic in
view of the inevitable dislocations of population that would occur as
a consequence of industrial contradictions. Also, NAFTA was never considered
as a means toward political union the way the common market originally
was. NAFTA was designed by Americans for the benefit of American interests
and successfully sold to the Canadians and Mexicans as mutually beneficial
to them as well. Whether is possible to have an open borders policy with
regard to goods and not labor remains to be seen in the long run.
The short-term consequence of NAFTA has been for industrial jobs to move
south and agricultural jobs to move north, and also menial job openings
that Americans and more established immigrant groups refuse to consider.
Into this vacuum rushed superfluous Mexican labor who faced starvation
in their own country as a result of the avarice of their own political
and financial élites. If you think the Republicans are bad: in
Mexico there is no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, no welfare,
no public health insurance, no public assistance of any sort. Mexican
political leaders, who continually complain about American immigration
restrictions against Mexican laborers never utter a syllable about improving
conditions in their own country that might induce their people to stay
A large part of the problem is historical. If Mexicans jeer the American
soccer team or Miss USA, what they are really complaining about is the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which resulted in half of their national
territory being annexed by the Americans. Not just half, but the best
half: Texas, with its oil and agriculture; California, with wealth beyond
description; and everything in between. To be sure, part of it was their
own fault: the area was theirs on the map, but in 300 years the Spanish
colonial regime and then the Mexican governments had never seen fit to
populate it, aside from a few small outposts on the California coast and
some isolated Catholic missions.
The Mexican government had some success in populating Texas by soliciting
immigration of European and American settlers in the early nineteenth
century, but they revolted after that government tried to abolish slavery,
creating the Republic of Texas. In 1846 the American army invaded Mexico
on the pretext of a border dispute and made that country an offer
they couldnt refuse in which 1.3 million square kilometers
(500,000 sq. mi.) of territory, half the country, were ceded to the U.S.
in exchange for a payment of $15 million.
Transfers of territory to the winning side after a war are a normal procedure.
Borders and adjusted and provinces are annexed, but to annex half a countrys
territory is, to put it mildly, a little irregular. No, really irregular!
Of course, this occurred during an epoch when European powers were starting
to grab really large pieces of land the French conquest of Algeria
in 1830, for example, so the Americans, despite their stated ideology
against imperial conquest, were right in step with the times.
Most Americans, whose ancestors only arrived after the fact, are willfully
ignorant of how this territory arrived in our possession. They think that
land was given to us by the tooth fairy. Unfortunately, the Mexicans have
a longer historical memory, so its not surprising that they curse
us out. Were getting off easy by having to endure a few insults.
If you rob a man blind, you should be able to laugh it off if he later
calls you a bastard. In fact, its shocking that the Mexicans have
accepted the loss of half of their territory with such equanimity and
that a charismatic populist demagogue hasnt emerged to exploit the
seething resentment of the masses with thundering denunciations, shaking
his fist at the north and exhorting the people to mobilize and avenge
the countrys lost honor.
Maybe thats the reason the American establishment has stuck its
neck out in the face of militant anti-immigrant sentiment in this country,
to soft-peddle the illegal immigration issue, hoping to mollify revanchist
sentiment in Mexico. We own the best part of Mexico. Better to let their
disenfranchised population come here to work than for armies of them to
mass at the border armed with weapons.
During the debate over NAFTA the American labor unions worked to get provisions
added that would force the Mexican government to address labor and environmental
issues to bring them more into line with American standards. The reasoning
was that these modifications would level the playing field somewhat, and
that American jobs would not just get sucked into a snake pit of industrial
misery and polluted filth.
That was a very astute and responsible approach. Maybe todays politicians
could learn a thing or two from that, and instead of just treating Mexican
immigration as an isolated issue Bush, Clinton, Kennedy et al should expand
the debate to address the social conditions in Mexico that force Mexican
to crawl through rat-infested sewers and traverse searing deserts without
water so that they can work as porters and laborers, driving bicycles
loaded with take-out food the wrong way down the sidewalk.
That would bring us closer to the thinking of the European Commission,
which realized long ago that trade, immigration and social welfare are
all really interlocking issues.
If you disagree,then send Dean an email.
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