Friends Richard and Leslie recently sent out a letter expressing their displeasure at the Mexico Bashing that seems to be eminating from some in the USofA. I agree with much of what they say, and too feel my hackles rise when everything gets blamed on Mexico, or when Mexico is being portrayed in an unfairly and/or erroneous light (mostly due to ignorance).
Illustration by Satoshi Kambayashi
Here is (printed here with permission) their letter -

From time to time I have been sending reflections of our experiences in Mexico to family and friends. This might be considered more of a diatribe than a reflection. Over the past few months the negative US press has been cranking out story after story portraying Mexico and its citizens in a negative light.

Actually our first awareness of the distortions occurred about 18 months ago during the high prices of gasoline in the US. Evidently, US citizens who lived along the border were driving into Mexico to purchase gasoline at around $2.70 a gallon. The articles warned US drivers that Mexican gas was dirty and that it would have disastrous results in their engines if used. At that point we had lived here for 8 months and had been regularly filling our car with Mexican gas, with no ill effects. Friends who had lived here for three years or longer reported the problems. We became suspicious about the US news reports and discovered that the US oil companies were behind the promotion of the negative press. They wanted to keep the US customers buying their higher priced gasoline. The second piece of information which supports the reality of lies by the oil company propaganda machine is that 70% of all Mexican gasoline is refined in Houston. Pemex, the Mexican government's oil company, ships most of its crude oil to Houston and then brings it back to Mexico. Were the oil companies implying that their refineries in Houston were producing dirty gas? I don't think so.

This negative story was followed a few months later with a series of articles, including a number in the NY Times, about the tainted tomatoes that were causing illnesses in the US. Nearly every article blatantly stated that the tomatoes were from Mexico. It caused a ban on Mexican tomatoes being shipped to the US and other countries. It destroyed the tomato producers economic viability here. No one would buy their crop. Later it was quietly acknowledged that the tainted tomatoes were actually produced in the US.

The next negative stories involved the number of deaths near the border, suggesting that tourists were in danger in Mexico due to the war between the drug cartels and the military. In a village near Merida eight headless bodies were found. They were identified as drug dealers who were killed by a rival drug gang in Cancun and their bodies dumped near Merida, where some of the leaders of the rival gang lived. In reality there is a war here. In the past 18 months over 8,000 Mexican citizens have died as a result. The war is also between the cartels over territory and control of the supply lines......these supply lines developed after the US did such a good job shutting down the supply lines from Colombia which transported drugs by sea and air. The US market's demand for illegal drugs is driving this. And the availability of the automatic assault weapons from the US gun dealers is supplying the drug cartels with their weapons and ammunition. The local citizens ask us about the prevalence of guns in the US. They don't understand because citizens in Mexico are not allowed to own guns. This problem is a US problem, which George Bush ignored. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have publicly acknowledged that the US shares the blame, due to the demand for illegal drugs and the supply of assault weapons, which the US has done little to restrain. That resulted in the President and the Secretary of State being verbally attacked by Republican extremists as being weak and apologetic. Frankly, I believe they were merely being honest. A refreshing change from other politicians of recent memory. This morning on the CBS News we heard a US politician suggesting that the border with Mexico be closed. Sounds like shutting the barn door after the pigs have already escaped.

It is not my intention to deny the seriousness of the executions, murders, physical attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings. Yes, these things are happening and on a regular basis. If you are a member of the Mexican army or a member of a police force, you are a target. Federales and policemen wear bullet proof vests constantly because there is a constant fear for their lives. Rival drug gains target each other as well as the police, politicians, and soldiers. We have never felt in any danger personally but we do not attempt to buy or transport drugs. We do not hang out where these activities takes place. I feel much safer here than when I worked in Newark.

Now, the swine flu problem is providing the latest opportunity to blame Mexico. I suspect that we will discover that this strain of the influenza problem did originate in Mexico. However, the descriptions we read in the US papers, including the Times, do not reflect our experiences.

Mexico is blamed for allowing this virus to spread. Mexico is blamed for a slow response. Mexico is blamed for being a dirty country. Let me report what we see here “on the ground,” as the news reporters say when talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our schools have been closed for a week and will remain closed for another week. (This includes the Yucatan, while the closest documented case of swine flu is 800 miles away.) All gatherings of more than thirty people have been banned, forcing the cancellation and postponement of events, banks have closed, business are requiring their employees who deal directly with the public to wear masks. The local Mexican League baseball team, Los Leones, are still playing their games, but in front of empty stadiums, televised with piped-in crowd noises. Even the mascot was wearing a mask.

At the grocery store yesterday, the baked items which are normally sitting on trays, such as our favorite chocolate donuts, were under plastic protection. The clerks were all wearing masks, even in Blockbuster. The amount of traffic on the streets has dropped considerably; it almost feels like a Sunday. A number of restaurants are closed. The tourist trade is disappearing. People are canceling trips. The economic impact of this will be devastating to an already fragile economic system. Costs here are rising. Some food items have doubled in the time we have been here.

Yes, I am defensive about Mexico. Having existed for decades beneath the imposing shadow of the US and other industrialized nations, Mexico seemed to be developing into a responsible democratic nation. There was an emerging middle class, which is now threatened. There was a rising standard of living. I am concerned about the continuing impact of all these events on the future here. The real estate market has dried up. There are no buyers. Our architect, who in 2008 was awarded the Mexican Architectural Digest prize for best renovation, had 12 properties being renovated at one time. Now he has one renovation and one new house that his parents are building.

After all this negativity let me conclude with one humorous and perhaps positive story. The previous governor of the Yucatan, a member of the PAN political party, had built a brand new specialty hospital. It was scheduled to be opened in the fall of 2007. It was a wonderfully designed building. In the 2007 election, the new governor was from the PRI political party. She decided that the new hospital would not be opened. PRI did not want to give any positive publicity the opposition party. (Imagine this: one political party blocking the efforts of the other political party, in spite of the needs of the people. How can politicians in a so-called civilized country act that way? …. Uh,...oh,.... excuse me,..... never mind.) Anyway, the new hospital was recently, finally, opened. So I guess there are some evidences of hope.

In the meantime, we wash our hands, stay away from public gatherings, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and wait.........and we still read the Times but with a suspicious eye.
Richard and Leslie