Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Problem with Ross... The Problem with Generalizations; Conversations with a Past Life September 15th, 2011

The problem with Ross Jason Goldstein is...  The problem I have is that I see many different sides at the same time or alternative...  When I entered Mexico, I believed that humans were humans and that I had something to share and something to learn, that there was no true better ground.  I was incredibly idealistic and naive and wish I could have remained that way.  I wish I could live simply and just live with the limits within the new situation.  However, I was struck by a lot of diversity in reactions to life where I was standing and a lot of diversity of reactions to my appearance in the space of the people with whom I came into contact.  Margarita's younger brother Gregorio hated me from the first day he met me.  Why?  Because I was a Gringo.  But what is a gringo and why should he hate me for that?  What did I represent to him if he's never met a "Gringo"?  There are 330 million Gringos in the U.S., millions of them being of Mexican descent.  In a conversation with my mother-in-law years into my life here in Mexico with Margarita, a conversation about my concern about Gregorio's racism towards me and the other possible forms people from the ranch may relate towards me, Paz said, "To tell you the truth, when you appeared on the ranch I was scared.  I had never seen an 'American' before you.  But then I met your mother and Bruce and your friend Scott and his wife and Chris and Robert and realized that you were not to be feared.  I see you as one of mine..." and with tears running down her face she continues, "but I know that there may come a time when you decide to return to your country and I understand, it's something you may need to do..."  Now, let me tell you, the first time that Paz received me at Margarita's side, the first 8 times to be precise, she hugged me warmly and kissed me on the cheek and on the neck.  Now, if she was so scared of me, why did she do that?  Yes, we all seemingly contradict ourselves at times...  Very few of us can speak or write off the cuff exactly what we understand, think or feel...  I don't know if you read the 3 parts of "The 3 Messengers" on my blog about how Margarita and I met and the ecological tourist ranch "las Cañadas" where Margarita worked as the cook and I worked voluntarily...  In any case, if you haven't, the owner Ricardo is a year younger than I am, is of upper upper middle class Veracruz heritage and created this gorgeous tourist ranch dedicated to education on organic agriculture etc.  The kitchen was vegetarian, organic and the ranch had a new-age beat...  You would think that this 32-year-old agriculturalist had a great heart along with his open mind...  That's what I thought.  I thought he was like my friends from New York City with the same ideals.  So, one day I told him that I was in-love with Margarita and I hoped that it wouldn't affect anyone negatively.  His response was, "Look, these people will never let you into their community.  You won't understand them and they won't understand you.  I don't understand them and we come from the same country, the same culture.  But you come from such a distinctly different place than even I.  So less so will you and them be able to get along..."  I lost all my respect for Ricardo after that conversation and was sure that this racist bastard was wrong.  A month and a half later he kicked me off his ranch in the hope of retaining "his cook..."  I've lived 8.5 years with Margarita afterwards and I will tell you the truth; He is correct; he is incorrect.  The problem with the campesino people...  The problem with Gregorio, the problem with Ricardo, the problem with Paz, the problem with Ross...  The problem with Mexico.  The problem with those pinche Gringos, the problem with the "Americans".   Yes, there is a problem.  But it all depends upon which angle you are looking at...  And there is a problem with writing quickly and probably writing while annoyed and with grouping people. My mother is a social worker and always focussed upon the issue of generalizations.  I consider myself a social anthropologist analyst of life and humans after rejecting the study of History as a horribly manipulated socio-political science (and now I am writing quickly off the cuff, which can seem highly flawed....) and I highly believe in generalizations and also highly believe that generalizations are highly dangerous.  My last name is Goldstein.  I was picked on for being a Jew.  I should have learned through life experience that a warning light will switch on the second I say the problem with tall girls like YOU...  Are you tall?  I'm short:-)  In the middle-school dances I always paired up with Marisa di Maria who was a few inches taller than me and never could put my chin on her shoulder as I had always wished...  That's truly a problem don't you think?

Did I tell you that I'm a Gemini with 5 "planets" in Virgo?  I say this because of the goofiness slap-stick comments in the middle of a serious conversation. 

Look, I spend my life thinking about problems, because all societies have them, no matter how rich or how poor they are and many of the people within those societies suffer from those problems and, due to conditioning, subtle learning/influencing and and and, what? the people don't know exactly what it is that is causing their problems.  Why did Gregorio cause me so many problems over the past 8.5 years?  I always turned the other cheek with him and was respectful and considerate.  I even invited Gregorio to be my associate in the cupcake business out of respect for his strengths and in July I told him that I wouldn't sell him one of our refrigerators.  But, since we weren't using it, he could have it.  Afterwards, he related towards me as if I was an asshole.  Granted, that's how he always related towards me.  Look, I don't see the value in selling something I don't use to someone who needs it.  Granted, I don't generally give away personal belongings to strangers.  But, Gregorio isn't a stranger.  I say that because it's not about giving to any given person in need.  There are billions of people in need on this planet.  I'm also in need if you haven't noticed.  That's to say that this isn't a patronizing statement...  But I truly believe that the problem with the world is that we tend to put monetary value upon almost all objects and we can't just give in the name of helping someone else grow.  That's me.  But, I am also very critical.  And when I sense and I see and I hear that people are suffering by the minds and the hands of political and social and socio-psychological and psycho-political systems and also suffering by their own decisions or lack there of and their own prejudices that they inflict upon their children and upon the neighbors...  I can't help but to want to help. But don't confuse me with a typical American white bread idealist activist.  I didn't come here to help people.  I didn't think that anyone was so in need.  I was very naive.  And had I not married Margarita, I would not find myself entwined in this very complex issue (problem).  I wouldn't be focussing on "the problem of the..."  I'm not THAT outsider, since I am so much more inside than Ricardo Romero. I've seen and experienced and learned things about this sector of Mexican society that almost no outsider would experience, but from first hand experience.  I speak and hear a response.  I act and receive a response, regardless of whether or not I merit that response.  At the same time we struggle to survive, Margarita and I, we struggle to lift up Margarita's family and offer hope to this generation of offspring.  No, we don't struggle for any other Mexicans, because that is unrealistic.  And within this struggle we receive a varied array of responses.  And truthfully, I struggle with the question of "is this actually worth it?"  And the answer differs depending upon the day and the mood and how my brother-in-laws are relating towards me etc. 

But, you must understand that if I didn't hear or see or sense the frustration of "these" people due to their not being able to live as they believe others live, I wouldn't meddle in their affairs and I wouldn't complain about their styles...  Gregorio hates "gringos" because Mexicans are taught that "gringos" are to blame for their not being grand and reputable like the "gringos" and the Europeans.  Everytime a Mexican "mojado" (undocumented) is killed in the U.S., the news says that it is a hate crime and Mexicans say, "the Gringos are killing us in the Frontier!  The Gringos don't like us."  In June a young Mexican from Michoacan was killed on the streets of Brooklyn.  The story and the interview of his very simple parents was repeated on the news for 2 weeks.  Yes, there were other stories that could have been aired.  But this one was repeated for 2 weeks.  Their son had just parted with his girlfriend and was brutally beat to death on the corner.  His girlfriend said that he had no connections with gangs, with delinquency.  So, it must have been that the U.S. is dangerous for Mexicans.  Do you know that ONLY 15 percent of Mexicans who crossed to the U.S. return to live in their "homeland"?  That means that there was something worse they left behind in Mexico and that, maybe, just possibly the U.S. is not so bad to them afterall.  And you must ask, "why do so many Mexicans cross to the U.S. when it's a country of horribly racist and explotative people?"  This is my eye.  I've met so many people who have spoken with me about their experiences as "mojados" as "ilegales" as "undocumenteds" that I seem to have an idea of what's going on.  But, the ones who don't want to tell me exactly what they were doing there hint or exhume a certain energy.  I think that so many more Mexicans are in the drug and human moving trade in the U.S. than let on.  So many are returned to Mexico after being "caught" doing something illegal in the U.S.  And that something illegal is that of being "an illegal alien" since that can be heavily disputed... And the question is, "how many of them return in body bags not because a bad "gringo" or a bad border cop killed them but because they were killed by a rival gang or a rival cartel or they were killed "in the line of duty..." or "on the front line..."????? 

What does this have to do with my poorly phrased comment "The problem with the campesinos is..."??? 

One bi-product of NAFTA is a heavy flow of Mexicans to the U.S.  Being that Mexico, although with economy #10 in the world, doesn't export luxury goods, but raw materials, one of them being agricultural products... (Mangos instead of Mango Chutney,  polycarbons instead of computers--that are made primarily of plastic-- ores and metals instead of automobiles, petroleum instead of gasoline, Cattle instead of Leather Couches, milk instead of icecream)... there was an increased demand for agricultural products which created a significant drop in the value of the crops.  If the middle-man exporter could gain the contracts by offering lower prices to the importer (the greater the bulk, the lower the price by unit) that man would become wealthier.  So, the state prices of agricultural products dropped allowing more Mexican produce to be sold to the U.S. but causing the family income of the family farmers to drop drastically. It became very prevalent to see a father sell off land to pay for his son's journey to the U.S.  (The going rate charged by the Coyotes or Polleros was $30,000 pesos back in 2005 and has dropped to $20,000 present time)...  I had $33,000 pesos to my name when I entered Mexico in 2003.  It was the most money I had accumulated in my life up to that moment.  5 months later we were living on pesos we scrambled to aquire Margarita and I...  Struggling 7 days per week, 18 hour days just to get by for our first 4.5 years together and hearing how much someone's "mojado", "illegal", "undocumented" brother was earning in the U.S...  makes one wonder and look around...  And then the statistics come out in 2004 that the #1 contributer to the Mexican economy isn't Petroleum, isn't tourism, isn't drug trade...  It's money sent from the Mexicans in the U.S. to family members in Mexico... 

Margarita wants me to write my "spoken essay" WHO TRULY DOESN'T WANT MEXICANS IN THE U.S.?  It doesn't focus on American racists or Unions or other special interest groups.  It focusses on WHO TRULY WANTS FREE ENTRANCE OF MEXICANS INTO THE U.S. AND WHY?  And the answer is very simple.  But the writing could be very entertaining...  Mexico is the 11th largest population in the world.  After China and India, the U.S. is #3.  Being the world economic and manufacturing leader, the U.S. has a wonderful opportunity having #11 as it's neighbor.  There are 196 countries in the world.  Mexico is a gold mind for business selling basic consumer goods and services.  All you must do is put the money in the hands of the 11th biggest population and influence their buying habits.

Mexico is also the world leader in drug trafficking and is the neighbor to the world leader in consumption of narcotics.  Great opportunity too.  But, what if you could turn the #11 population into a strong narcotics consumer?  All you must do is put money into the hands of their people...  Afterall, Mexico supposedly has a 46% alcoholism rate (is that calculated with the complete 113million population in mind or just the adults?  Is that calculated men and women or just men?)  It's pretty high, don't you think if it's counting babies and children and elderly women...  That would mean that almost all Mexican men are alcoholics, since you must remove the child and the large female population that was not enculturated into the alcohol drinking habit...  In Mexico alcoholism is part of the male socio-political structure (for lack of much better words).  It's very difficult to develop "friendships" in Mexico without the drinking habit...  That said, it is embedded within the modern Mexican culture the tendency or the need to alter one's state with the use or abuse of alcohol.  It's not a big jump to alter one's state with narcotics.  But, the problem is that the narcotic equivalent of tequila costs too much...  So, it helps that someone sends easy money to Mexico from the U.S... 

I've written a lot more than I imagine your comment merited.  But, I think that it is a very complex issue or problem here without an easy response or a simple form of analyzing and addressing the multifacited psycho-socio-politico-economic situation.  This may be posted on my blog also.  I will have to re-read it and remove aspects of you from the letter, probably meaning your name...

I know Armeria, Colima.  It's between Tecoman and Manzanillo.  Did you know that a strong earthquake struck those towns?  I thought it was around 2002, but I'm now questioning the year...  We spent one month of the Pork Flu epidemic stuck in Manzanillo.  Colima (Coco-Limon) or (Coconut-Lime). I love looking towards the right as I make the turn on the super highway that turns out of Tecoman towards Armeria, before and after crossing the river there are wonderful coconut palm plantations.  It makes me think of the introduction of Miami Vice with the so well ordered or lined coconut palm trees.  Absolutely breath-taking!  But, I have difficulty stopping alongside the road for taking the photographs.  1996!  I was beginning my life in New York City. I was working at the Russell Sage Foundation.  I was assisting the visiting scholar from SUNY Stoney Brook on his research into the "history of cocaine."  Paul is a Latin American Historian, Jewish from Washington D.C. married to Lara from Mexico City.  I had absolutely no interest in his research at the time.  I had absolutely no interest in Mexico.  But, I had no idea that my relationship with Randi at the time was what would spin here, 1996-2003 to now...  And Mexico had become violent as it is internationally known now.  A year ago someone assassinated the prior Governor of Colima.  A few years before we first set foot in Colima, the very popular Governor at the time died in a plane crash.  The most popular way Mexicans assassinate their political leaders is by crashing their planes.  Colima is not on the list of the most dangerous states at the moment.  I have to visit with friends in 5 minutes.  So I will return to this.  I hope I never come as close as you came.  It's not something to be taken lightly.  The subject is very intense.  "Colima to Seattle With Love..."  The next James Bond movie..

There's a strange connection between the fact that you met your boyfriend in Washington State and the brother of your boyfriend's mother was running heroine between Colima and Seattle, don't you think?  I just finished reading "The Godfather" written in 1969.  The book mentions that the San Francisco mafia was running drugs from the west coast of Mexico from at least the 40s.  But, the published history of the Mexican cartels has them being born in the 70s and still in miniture until the 80s when the CIA gives them a nice big push during the Iran Contra push for privately financing CIA operations.  Sinaloa had been the main cultivator of Poppy plants at the time...  I mention this because being immersed in the crazy, horribly violent chaos of the past 3 years here in Mexico makes me wonder what the hell is truly going on, since it effects us and the rest of the non rich Mexicans in ways you can't imagine.  1996 is a decade before things began to become crazy here with the "War on Drugs" by the current president Felipe Calderone. 

I think it's very difficult for people in the U.S. to understand where I'm coming from with my writing.  And, truthfully, I don't know how to express the complexity and the confusion, the frustration and the preoccupation.  And suggesting returning to the U.S. with Margarita is besides the point, since Mexico was a re-birth for me.  Returning to the U.S. could be like a re-death...  Plus, my experience, my reactions and my thoughts are 100% in Spanish. What I write is a poor translation of this experience.  In Mexico we are all in the same boat.  There is not much to say about this with others other than speculate about what is going to happen and/or what is happening.

What ever happened with your relationship with the young man with the mother in Armeria?  You're not with him for a long time.  Do you ever think about him and that experience and what became of his mother?  It's way too dangerous a situation and the killing of one family member doesn't usually terminate with that...  The situation becomes increasingly macabre here and I wonder just how much this is part of the CIA plan and who in the organization is directly participating in the gruesome tortures/mutilations...  I'm not asking who as in name and person but how do these people exist?  Are they trained to be this way in the U.S. military etc...?  they certainly aren't born this way....

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