A surprise awaits…

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Every morning, opening up gmail is a surprise. I get frequent updates from family and friends all over the world. Over the course of a week, I learn about births, deaths, marriages, parties and the dates that my dear ones will be arriving for a visit. Gmail serves up photos, recipes, jokes, book and movie recommendations, reminders of promises made and debts unpaid.

As well, I receive a huge amount of bulk mail. This is sometimes useful and sometimes useless. I get entertaining and happy news, and I get stuff I don’t even want to think about. But either way, it’s all food for thought.

Yucatan Expat Life keeps me abreast of Merida’s international community news:

http://yucatanexpatlife.com/womens-march-allies-join-forces-merida/

For what I don’t even want to think about – Mexfiles’ predictions and points to ponder keep my consciousness on alert:

The Obama Administration record in Mexico

Here’s a video that’s too-funny-for-words – courtesy of my friend Lou who sends this clip from the Dutch equivalent of the John Stewart show:

But of course, not everyone has a Dutch sense of humour. The next message is an example of the point-of-view that has landed our world in its current state – I give you The Unseen Moon – no further comment

https://unseenmoon.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/adios-barry/

Steve Cotton, a blogger who lives way over on the other side of Mexico posts nearly every day. His writing is always thoughtful and sensitive.

http://steveinmexico.blogspot.mx/

Another of my favourite blogs comes just once a week. It is a “journal” and today it contained some wonderful quotations:

http://sylviasaltwater.com/of-all-the-things-ive-lost-i-miss-my-mind-the-most/

And finally, a warm-the-heart photo attachment from my friend Cliff Hinderman at the Grassroots Oaxaca Street Children’s holiday party. He tells me that many of the children’s gifts were donated by the participants on last year’s International Women’s Club fundraising tour:

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Some FAQs… and… FYI

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This past week, much has been written about the Women’s March on Washington and the Solidarity March Merida. The events will be held simultaneously. In Merida, we will gather together:

Saturday January 21st, from 12 noon – 3 pm, at Hennessy’s Irish Pub

From what I hear, many members of Merida’s international community would like to participate, but they need further information. The most frequently asked questions seem to be:

  1. What are the aims of Solidarity March Merida?

The first aim is to show support for all those participating in the Women’s March on Washington. Apart from the D.C mega-march, 1,364,010 people have agreed to join one of 616 sister marches or events – in support of women and other marginalized groups – that have been organized all over the world. Ours is one of fifteen to be held in Mexico.

  1. Who will be attending?

The organizational committee estimates that “between 50 and 200 people” will be at Hennessy’s.  To date, 75 people have confirmed their participation on Solidarity March Merida’s facebook event page. It would be helpful to have a closer estimate, so if you have decided to join us, you can register here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1661755250783901/

However, you do not have to do so – everyone is welcome – and the event is free of charge..

  1. Is there a program? What will we do at Hennessy’s? Will we march?

Our informal program includes music and mingling – but no marching. We have no wish to disrupt traffic or any of Merida’s regular Saturday activities.   Inside the restaurant, a banner will be stretched out on a long table, so bring your felt markers and write a personal message in support of what matters most to you. That could include:

Parity and equality for women

Fair, respectful treatment of immigrants, migrants and refugees

Support for social programs and health care

Opportunities for young people – they need to feel hopeful about the future

Education and loving support for children

Services for seniors – they need to feel safe and protected.

Respect for diversity – no one should be marginalized because of their ethnicity, socio-economic standing, sexual orientation, political views or religion.

At the close of the event, the banner will be hung on Hennessy’s outside wall for all to see.

We also hope to connect via cell phone with the 30 Merida residents who will be in Washington. If we are successful (we have been warned that the connectivity will be limited) we hope to show live feed on the pub’s TV.

  1. Will there be food available?

We will be at Hennessy’s over the lunch hour, so if you wish, at your own expense, you can order food and drink from the regular menu.

  1. What about the legality? Foreigners in Mexico are not allowed to take part in political events.

Solidarity March Merida will not address Mexican law and order or politics. In fact, an important part of the event is to show our support for Mexico, and use our voices to defend the country we call home during all or part of each year. We want the people of Mexico to know that we appreciate their hospitality and kindness. We do not support anti-Mexico rhetoric or bullying.

If you still have a question or would like to express an opinion, please use the comment section. I speak for all members of the event’s planning committee when I say that we want everyone living in the area to feel comfortable and committed to the Solidarity March Merida. We hope we’ll see you at Hennessy’s, noon until 3 PM,  this coming Saturday!

Solidarity in Merida

 

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I am one of the organizers of the event to be held at Hennessy’s Irish Pub on Saturday January 21st. Since the gathering was announced, social media is full of differing opinions.

I would like to clarify a few points to all supporters and opponents.

The aim of the event at Hennessy’s is to show solidarity with the March on Washington and more than 300 sister events. These simultaneous gatherings will provide a venue for concerned citizens around the world to come together and voice their opinions about policy statements made by the incoming president of the United States of America.

President-elect Donald Trump’s views on LGBTQ rights, immigrants and refugees, needs of children and the elderly, climate change, weapons proliferation, affordable medical care, accessible education, and many other issues are certainly at odds with those of many global citizens.

I am not a citizen of the United States of America; I was born in Vancouver, which practically lies on the Canada-USA border. I am a citizen of Canada and of Mexico. Both of those countries are part of the North American continent and that makes me an American.  Because of geography and other non-variables, the fates of all Americans are intertwined. What one nation does, affects us all.

A lot of Mexican citizens and many of the expats who live in Merida need a way to express their views, and I am grateful to Hennessy’s for providing the place.

But, I hope the event will transcend name-calling and the venting of our disaccord. I hope the solidarity gathering at Hennessy’s will send a message of support to our friends who desperately need a morale booster – the Mexican people.

On Wednesday January 18th, I will complete my 41st year living in Merida. I have seen and experienced so much it makes my head spin. But truly I have never before seen the people so crushed.

The Mexican peso is worth half what it was worth ten years ago. The daily minimum wage is 14 times lower than the average minimum daily wage in the USA. Gasoline prices have gone up 14-20% this month, corporations are slashing jobs, the government has increased taxes, and despite claims of “transparency”, there are more “irregularities” than ever. And now, insult has been added to injury.

How would you feel if the president of another country felt such disrespect and abhorrence for you that he vowed to build a wall to keep you out? What if he also demanded you pay for it? What would you think about the population of the nation who elected such a person?

I can count on one hand the Mexicans who have been hateful towards me. I feel a sense of inclusion and kindness. Yesterday at the Merida English Library, an expat told me about an experience she had when she went to a tailor shop to have her purse strap fixed:

I sat on a chair, and while one of the tailors mended the strap, the other recited poetry to me.

This is the Mexico I know. These are the people I live amongst.  They have no way to tell the incoming U.S. administration how they feel about the abuse being heaped on them, but we do. Loyalty and gratitude are two of the pillars of friendship. For the kindness and support we have received, we should defend our friends.

Although the event I am helping to organize will be attended by many who disagree with the USA’s president-elect, personal criticism of him or any other politician is not our agenda. We want to show our support for those living in the USA, and in other countries, who will suffer because of the policy changes the new administration wants to affect. We do not want to see hard won civil rights taken away. We do not want more acrimony in the world.

Some expats have expressed worry about attending this event. They are concerned that their presence might be considered a political act, and they might be breaking the Mexican law that prohibits foreigners from political participation.

To allay this fear, I will say that the City authorities know the event is planned and they are positive about it. We will not be causing a disturbance or blocking traffic. Our message regarding Mexico is one of support. We have nothing to hide or worry about.

So, on behalf of the organizing committee, I invite you to join us on Saturday January 21. We’ll be at Hennessey’s from noon till 3 in the afternoon. We will provide a long white banner and all participants will be invited to add their thoughts – be sure to bring your felt pens and markers. After the event, the banner will be hung for all to see.

For more info, please leave a comment or have a look at our facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1661755250783901/

Yucatan Expat Life also has a post about the Merida’s Solidarity with the Washington March.

http://yucatanexpatlife.com/merida-gathering-solidarity-womens-march/

Here we go again!

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The price of gasoline in Mexico has skyrocketed.  Right now the prices stand at:

Magna: 15.99 pesos/liter, an increase of 14.2%

Premium: 17.79 pesos/liter, an increase of 20.1%

Diesel: 17.05 pesos/liter, an increase of 16.5%

The government says these prices will remain in effect through January.  Then, during the first two weeks of February there will be a weekly adjustment to this price, and after February 18, the prices will be adjusted daily.

Basically, four factors will determine the price modification:

  • The international price of petroleum will raise or lower the price of gasoline in Mexico.
  • The government has divided the country into 90 regions. The cost of storing and transporting gasoline to each of these geographic areas will also contribute to the cost at the pumps.
  • The government will continue to charge a hefty tax on every liter of gasoline sold in the country. They have said that this tax, the IEPS, will not rise in 2017.
  • Environmental concerns in certain areas of the country, such as Mexico City, may demand cleaner gasoline which is more expensive, and of course, the cost will be passed on to the consumer.

Many more justifications for the increase in the price of gasoline have been published. But unraveling the convoluted usage of language and logic is beyond me. The bottom line seems to be that PEMEX is the only petroleum company on the planet that has consistently lost money year after year. And again, I am not even going to try and explain that one.

What concerns me is that the country’s inflation rate (not to mention the devaluation of the ever-shrinking peso) is going to run amuck. There is no way to avoid it – period.

I have lived in Mexico through several serious economic disasters.

  • 1976: the first major peso devaluation, and nationalization of the banks. Overnight, the value of everyone’s savings in USD accounts was reduced by half. All USD accounts in Mexican banks were cancelled.
  • 1982: Mexico’s finance minister said the country could not pay its bills. The inflation rate rose more than 100% that year. Many people lost their homes, cars, and the ability to support their families. Women who had traditionally stayed home joined the work force, and men took on second, even third jobs.
  • 1994: Another major devaluation – the peso fell 50% in one week – the US government stepped in with a US$50bn bailout in the form of loan guarantees. Eventually, the Mexican peso stabilized and the country’s economy returned to growth. Three years later it was able to repay all of its US Treasury loans.
  • 2000: The burst of the dot.com bubble, and the slowing American economy once again shook Mexico to its core. Add serious national political issues to this mix and you got – more double digit peso devaluation and galloping inflation.
  • 2007 – 2008:  In many ways this crisis has still has not ended. The sluggish global economy resulted in the collapse of several large financial institutions and is considered by many economists to be the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
  • 2017: Here we go again!

Those living in Mexico on dollar-based incomes will be affected, but not nearly as much as those who earn in pesos.

At the grocery store on Thursday, I ran into a woman I know. She told me that it cost her 900 pesos (more than 10 times the minimum daily wage in Mexico) to fill her tank at a nearby PEMEX station.

We complained about the rising grocery prices we could already see. I told her I planned to give the lady who helps me in the house, an extra 30 pesos a day to help offset the rise in gasoline. “Oh well, I don’t need to do that, the couple who work at our house don’t drive,” she said.

I bit my tongue, and thought for a moment. “The gas hike will make the bus fares go way up.” I said. Her face crumpled, (the same way mine does when I blunder)  “I guess I’m a little scattered with all that’s going on,” she stammered.

It is understandable that the current political upheaval in the USA has our attention just now – the whole world is on standby. But I would respectfully suggest we be cognizant of the multiple issues that Mexicans are facing. After all, Mexico is where many of us have chosen to live – this country’s problems also concern us.

***

Credits:

Information Sources:

http://www.ifre.com/a-history-of-the-past-40-years-in-financial-crises/21102949.fullarticle

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2016/12/gasolinazo-gasolina-aumento-2017-precios/

Image Source:

https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=images+alza+de+gasolina&rlz=1C1CHJL_esMX650MX651&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=613&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwih85zo8bLRAhXJ7yYKHUWHDnoQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=X7dZVu0Eo7RJUM%3A

Serendipity

Lori Simek, Joanna, and Marion Bale - the organizing team
Lori Simek, Joanna, and Marion Bale – the organizing team

In 2016, Jorge and I organized a fund raising tour for the International Women’s Club of Merida. We’d done so several times before, but this trip had more participants than any of the others, and a more complex itinerary. We  planned to see the sights all the way from Merida to Guanajuato and back again.

But we never would have even made it out of town without the help of club members, Lori Simek and Marion Bale. As former teachers, no detail escaped their scrutiny. Margey Alexy, Linda Lindholm and Lori Walters also helped an enormous amount once we got on the road. The trip was IWC team work at its best.

Our fellow travelers donated ten large boxes of toys, school supplies,  personal hygiene items and clothing that we planned on giving to people we would encounter along the way. That’s what we’d done on every previous trip. However, a week into the tour, we still had not found anyone who needed what we had to give. In Puebla, I went searching for a day care center or hospice – and the one place I did find was closed for renovation.

Eventually our group arrived in Mexico City, and I discovered why we still had those 10 boxes. (Now, I need to give you a bit of back story)

In the 1980s, I met Cliff Hinderman, a high school Spanish teacher from Spirit Lake, Iowa. He brought his students to Merida every summer and eventually he told me about a social service project he was involved with in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots  serves children in the city of Oaxaca, who do not have access to an education. The group helps the poorest of Oaxaca’s children live their dream of going to school. Their motto is:

When you give a child money on the street you feed them for a day – when you give a child an education you feed them for life!

Jorge and I have visited the shelter several times, and we are always amazed with the easygoing relationship between the volunteers and the eager-to-learn children. For many of the kids, the center is the only stable, supportive place they know. The youngest children begin their day with breakfast and attend a state-funded kindergarten right on the premises. When the older children arrive from their various schools, everyone has lunch, and then its homework time. The center offers music and art classes, sports, personal hygiene workshops, and academic tutoring. Volunteers come from many countries in the world, and the children learn to appreciate diversity. Several of them have continued their education and have graduated from University. Many more have learned a trade that provides them with a solid way to support themselves and their families.

Now back to the Mexico City part of my story. If you guessed that we ran into Cliff there – you are absolutely right. There he sat in our hotel’s restaurant, having breakfast. Cliff is about six foot six and slim, but when Jorge called out, Clifito! –  his eyes wildly searched the room and he responded with – Don Jorge!  He hurried over to join us. Pointing to his heaping plate, he pulled on the elastic waistband of his running pants, and said, “Good thing I’m wearing my buffet pants!” Everyone cracked-up, and  then listened in awe to his funny, poignant, inspiring anecdotes about Oaxaca.

Actually as soon as I saw my friend, I knew why “The Universe” had not provided an opportunity for us to give away our gifts – they were meant for Cliff and his children – more than 600 of them.

Cliff found someone who agreed to deliver the boxes to Oaxaca – then he went his way, and we all went ours. Today I received one of his periodic emails, and I would like to share an excerpt with you :

“Again, I want to thank you so much for the gifts you sent to Oaxaca with me last February. They were used this year in my gift bags for the K-6 children (200 bags).  Our Three Kings party is Saturday (tomorrow). There will be food, clowns, a show, and games. As they leave, each child will receive a new backpack, a candy bag, and a gift bag.  There are always smiles from ear to ear…thanks to your group for helping bring these smiles! More later, the best in 2017,   I will send a photo or two of the party.”

And when I receive the photos from Cliff, I will pass them on for you to look at too.

Those who were on the IWC trip will remember our “sorting party” in Villahermosa – I hope everyone enjoys these few photos of that fun evening. Although no IWC trip is happening this year, we hope to be on the road again in 2018.

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***Information on how to help support the Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots, or volunteer can be found at: http://www.oaxacastreetchildrengrassroots.org/