“I’ve never seen anything like that before in Mexico,” Carlos said. In stunned silence we watched the looting of Coppell and Elektra (sic) supercenters in Mexico City. Federal petroleum subsidies were eliminated the week before and gas prices surged twenty percent overnight. The gasolinazo (gas price increases) will gradually increase gas prices every month. It goes without saying, this mandate has not been well received – to say the least.
Tough Times In Mexico.
Last year was a very tough period of time for Mexico. The economy has been stagnant and corruption continues apace and unabated. To make matters worse, the unthinkable happened when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Over the past weeks, the peso has crashed and major car manufacturers have either decided to leave or are considering leaving Mexico. Social unrest has increased and businesses have been ransacked. President Peña Nieto is unpopular and it feels as if he loses authority daily. The economic forecast for 2017 is grim.
The general unease in the US has spread to Mexico, but it has been amplified. In the US our fault lines are along racial, gender, ethnic, geographical, political and income lines. However, in Mexico it feels as if a single giant fault line is developing between the governed and the government. Every night this week Carlos has been dismayed. My in laws are anxious in a way I have never seen. They are solidly middle class and professional, but now they too are very angry.
For me, being an expatriate in Colima is a dream come true. I love the beautiful warm weather;the rich culture and the delicious food. Apart from the lazy days and night, as an expatriate I also have a responsibility to be well informed. The laws, customs and social structures in Mexico are vastly different from the US. To ensure my time here is safe, I have created an expatriate safety kit. Modeled after the US ready.gov website, my satchel contains three things: information, preparation and planning.
How To Stay Informed In Mexico.
A responsible expatriate always has a trusted list of reputable media sources including newspapers, specific reporters and television. Generally speaking, there is an art to consuming Mexican media. The most popular television news sources (Noticias Televisa, Noticias Hechos) are like a very sweet dessert. As a result, TV news must be consumed judiciously lest you develop diabetes. In Mexico, television news reporting is weak. High-profile Televisa anchors Carlos Loret de Mola and Denise Maerker conduct live interviews that never press politicians too forcefully. They remind me of celebrity reporters. Occasionally, you can glean a few bits and pieces of worthwhile information, but for the most part – meh.
I have nicknamed Noticias Hechos, the other major news outlet, the Hunks and Honeys News Network. By and large, its anchors are hired based on sex appeal. Although it is debatable, I assume the anchors also have to have enough competence to read from a TelePrompter. Regretfully, serious reporting appears to be the least important consideration. The dramatic news sets are staged to glamorize the anchors. My sister in law and I have developed a crush on hunky Javier Alatorre (rumored to be gay). God only knows what he reports, but he looks smoking hot every night.
Online News Is Reliable; Television Newscasts Are Not.
All things considered, I am surprised by the prominence of US news stories. There certainly are enough newsworthy topics (e.g., crime, corruption) in Mexico City alone to keep reporters busy 24/7. Although this may be true, stories about American crime, racial conflict and celebrities take up a substantial amount of valuable news time. For example, the week that ex-governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte vanished with hundreds of millions of pesos, Noticias Hechos lead its broadcast with a story about Robert Downey Jr.’s prostate cancer diagnosis. Huh? Perhaps the tendency to avoid certain hard news stories can be understood based on a statistic. Last year 13 journalists were murdered. Some of the deaths have links to politicians. Scary.
Where To Find Reliable Information.
For this reason, online and social media platforms are the most reliable. One of the best Spanish language news sites is “Aristegui Noticias” by Carmen Aristegui. After courageously exposing President Nieto’s law thesis plagiarism she was fired by MVS news. Fortunately she was hired by CNN Español and continues to report online. Additional sources of information from my safety kit include:
- La Prensa (Spanish) – The biggest (circulation) newspaper in Mexico; headquartered in Mexico City. Leans towards tabloid style, but contains basic news. A good means of monitoring developments in Mexico’s largest city.
- Milenio.com (Spanish) – A decent online news site that covers the major states and cities (Mexico City, Guadalajara). A good site for the latest news. Updated in real time.
- AnimalPolitico.com (Spanish) – Fresh, urbane and humorous. A good way to monitor the political pulse of Mexico.
- Huffington Post Mexico (Spanish) – New expansion of Huffington Post website. Great collection of writers based throughout Mexico. Thorough and trusted. Contains a variety of excellent new stories. Probably the best coverage of politics and corruption.
- VICE News (Spanish/English) – Good reporting. Periodic pieces. Great for long form journalism, investigative journalism. Excellent coverage of the drug war and cartels.
- New York Times (English) – Daily and periodic reporting. Award-winning journalism. Great investigation pieces.
In addition, I also follow on Twitter:
- Andrea Noel (English) – One of the best. Fearless young reporter with a sterling reputation and deep contacts – a must. Great information. Honest and thorough.
- Jorge “El Diablo” Becerril (Spanish) – Excellent video/photographic coverage of civil strife and corruption in Mexico City. Beware of the graphic content (murders).
- Protección Civil, Protección Civil SEGOB (Spanish) – Necessary for monitoring natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic activity)
- Sismologico Nacional (Spanish) – Earthquake information
- Conauga Clima (Spanish) – Necessary for weather – Hurricanes
Make Sure To Prepare and Plan.
French poet and socialist Anatole France writes, “It is well for the heart to be naive and for the mind not to be.” With this in mind, before I relocated to Colima I forced myself to do extensive “opposition research.” Apart from the beauty and culture in Colima…what else? In summary, the answer to that question is volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. Carlos and I have plans for the big three. If separated, we have a pre-determined disaster meeting place. Additionally, we know at which point it would make sense to evacuate to a safer location. We hope will never enact of the plans within our safety kit, but it gives us peace of mind.
Something To Always Consider.
Lately, I have been researching the history and frequency of civil strife in Mexico. Consequently, I have been pondering is this the year of living dangerously in Mexico? The looting and riots have been limited to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana. It appears as if some of my neighbors have washed off the No Al Gasinolazo words from their rear windows. Albeit, many have not. For the moment, things are calm.
Recently, Carlos and I had an honest discussion about social unrest. We raised the question, at which point we would say enough and move to the United States? We both admit, our Che Guevara days are long past. For us: “He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again” as the Roman historian Tacitus wrote. In brief, if it is too dangerous – we’re outta there. That plan is the Ciprofloxacin in our safety kit – our strongest medicine. Meanwhile, it was shocking when the gasolinero (gas attendant) handed Carlos and I the receipt for a quarter tank fill-up our car. Carlos began to swear, “Chinga…”
I looked at it too. “Wow, that’s nearly the same price as three quarters of a tank last year,” I said, “a big increase.” Carlos visibly angry replied, “I know… I cannot believe it! These pinche price increases are just starting!” He folded the receipt and put it in his wallet, “I don’t know how we (los mexicanos) will be able to survive.”