lolaraincoat: (feminist)
So much going on, so little of it anything I got around to talking about here. And right now I am in Mexico City, where I haven't spent significant time in years, and there's so much to talk about with that, and I have all these new projects and all these students whose work is so interesting and and and.

But that's not what finally got me to post. What I wanted to say was that, you know, finally and at last today the Obama administration announced that it will stop defending the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

When I put my absentee ballot in the mail, back in September 2008, I said a prayer. I'm not usually a praying person, but I asked for three things from an Obama government, in case he got elected:

- an end to torture and the indefinite detainment of non-combatants and complete respect for the Geneva Convention on the part of the US and all our allies,

- universal access to complete, excellent health care, and

- full human and civil rights for everyone in the US, regardless of ability, race, class, sexuality, gender, or citizenship status. Starting with repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

What can I say, I don't pray much but when I do there are a lot of details to cover. Anyway, as you all know so well, we're not getting anywhere on the first, we're making slow progress (but progress! but slow progress!) on the second, but on the third - well, we just took a big step forward. I just wanted to stop for a second and mark that moment.

You know, historians mostly suck at predicting the future. Predicting the past is hard enough. So when I say that I thought this day would never come, that is the literal truth. Anyway whether or not it was predictable that this would happen, it is a surprise to me, and I am full of gratitude.
lolaraincoat: (Default)
I haven't been posting much - a torn rotator cuff is keeping me away from the keyboard for a while longer, as it has for months. But I had to note the passing of Carlos Monsivais, the greatest Mexican intellectual of his generation, the scholar in whose footsteps I have been bumbling along since I began working as a historian, a writer of such wit and deep erudition as to be untranslatable, a political thinker of such humanity and compassion that he made the messiest realities of Mexican governance not only comprehensible but funny, a great force for democratic change, justice, tolerance and hilarity, and the biggest fanboy imaginable.

I was in such awe of him that I had to be dragged - literally, pulled by the wrist - to go meet him for tea, by a mutual friend, the one time I did meet him. He had read my first book, in English, and he was willing to help get it published in Mexico. He pronounced it "divertido" and that was that. After that we chatted about Marx Brothers movies for a bit. I should have told him ... I wish I had been brave enough to tell him how much his work mattered to me - how every time I thought of a good topic, I could tell that it would be good because he had already gotten to it; how his newspaper column (front page of La Jornada every Thursday morning for years and years) had been my education in the way that gossip, rumor, and political history intertwine in Mexico; how his writing had taught me how to love Mexico City, Mexican literature and Mexican cinema in a completely new way.

We were lucky to have him with us for as long as we did, and losing him now - he was only 72! - is a sadness I can't put properly into words.
lolaraincoat: (yes!)
Okay, I spent way too much time today tracking down Spanish-language music videos about Obama. I have a vague idea about an article but basically I am just too tired to do my actual work.

So anyway. I found this. It will only make sense to those of us who know the oeuvre of Pedro Infante and can appreciate the sheer utter brilliance of pasting in George Bush where Jorge Negrete ought to be inDos Tipos de Cuidado. Which I guess is likely to be just me, [livejournal.com profile] twotoedsloth, and maybe [livejournal.com profile] logovo. But believe me when I tell you, this is fabulous.


...
lolaraincoat: (feminist)
Okay, so, I am powerless to control my need to read every bit and byte anywhere in the whole internet about Sarah Palin. It's not even about politics - she's like the most implausible fictional character ever, and the more I read, the less plausible she seems, and I'm fascinated.

So anyway, here are some of the my favorite random Vice-Presidential-candidate facts:

She is God's Media Rep! )

All her kids have appalling names! The youngest kid's middle name is Van because his parents are Van Halen fans! One of the others is named after an airplane! Another is named after a fishing port! And another is named after a city that never got built!

She modeled for Vogue - while pregnant!

She is more willing to throw her vulnerable family members under the national-media train than John Edwards ever was! )

She had her ex-brother-in-law fired, and then ... )

She's just as confused as I am about what the Vice-President is supposed to do all day besides waiting around in case the President dies! And I'm not running for Vice President! On second thought... )

She's very loyal to Wasilla, in the context of Alaskan politics, and to Alaska, now that she's on a national stage! This is great! We might end up with mid-twentieth-century-Mexican-style patria chica politics to go with our mid-twentieth-century-Mexican-style elections!

She only got a passport for the first time in 2007! eta: She used it to visit Kuwait! Thanks Heidi for that important info! /eta

She shoots polar bears! It's mercy killing! )

eta:She may or may not have belonged to a very silly Alaska-secessionist-movement party at some point in her past! As someone who has signed on to more than one obscure and annoying-to-others political organization in my time, I say: She really is just like us! /eta

In sum, even if McCain loses, I think we can expect to see more of Sarah Palin and her family - either in national politics, or on the Jerry Springer Show. Or both.
lolaraincoat: (elephant peace)
We didn't know about the big government raid last May on Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants in Postville, Iowa, when we drove through there last month. (A useful followup story is here, highlighting the critical, honorable role played by the local Catholic Church. See also this story on an intervention by a heroic legal translator.) It didn't make the news in Canada. All we knew was that we stopped on our way from Minneapolis to Dubuque in this tiny town that had a Productos Latinos store on the theory that it would be selling tacos - which was true, and they were excellent - and nobody wanted to answer my eager, ignorant questions about why all those immigrants were there, along with a large number of black-hat Orthodox Jews out enjoying the warm Sabbath evening. The people eating in the taqueria had jobs in a meat-packing plant, someone eventually explained, and they were from Texas. But not originally from Texas, surely, I asked. Texas, the nice guy behind the counter said firmly. Texas.

You could see that families had rooted themselves there - the store windows were full of christening gowns, quincenera outfits, and toys with Spanish-language packaging - and that without them this would just be one more dying corn belt community. You could tell by the stink, even a block away, that those jobs in the meat-packing plant had to be pretty unpleasant, nothing you'd want to do yourself. You couldn't see, unless you already knew, that 400 people had just been taken away by la migra.

There's nothing more to say about this that you don't already know.

...
lolaraincoat: (yes!)
I lost a big bet to [livejournal.com profile] twotoedsloth just about eight years ago. Some years before that, I had predicted that the PRI would never allow itself to lose a presidential election in Mexico - certainly not in my lifetime. I believed that the historical patterns that held them in place were just too powerful to be overcome. Two Toes thought otherwise and we put a sizable amount of money on the question. I've never been so happy to lose $100 as I was that night, when priista President Ernesto Zedillo announced that he - and by extension the entire stinking corrupt bloated corpse of a political party that he represented - would respect the results of the election that brought the PAN to power.

I don't mean to say that President Fox and the PANista government turned out to be any good at all, mind you. Just that I thought the PRI could not be beaten.


If anyone had offered, this time last year, I would have bet much more against the possibility of a African-American with the middle name Hussein, who had lived a significant portion of his life outside the US, worked as a community organizer and written books without a ghostwriter, winning even a single primary. I would have acknowledged that sexism is a powerful force in US politics and daily life, but racism (so I would have said) is even more powerful.

And once again, I am overjoyed to have been proven wrong. The US is a different place than I thought it was. My fellow citizens are better people than I would have dared to hope. The strength of misogyny among voters in the US was not such a shock, though it pains me and no doubt pains Clinton's supporters even more.

Sorry guys.


But still. Wow. Just - wow.


.....
lolaraincoat: (heh heh heh)
I have nothing useful to say about current events, just the powerful urge to clutch my head and moan. So let's just turn our eyes to Mexico, all right?

About a decade after the worst of the fighting of the Mexican Revolution ended, a religious war broke out. The Catholic Church went on strike -- that is, the Church refused to offer any sacraments at all for about 30 months -- in response to the anticlerical policies of the new, Revolutionary government (which were frequently rapacious and sometimes vulgar and cruel); some of the Catholic hierarchy in Mexico also organized violent resistance to the government's new cultural initiatives (which in practice meant raping and murdering schoolteachers.) It was an ugly little struggle, lasting almost three years and leaving perhaps twenty thousand dead.

Making peace between church and state, and keeping it for the subsequent eighty years, required that both sides give up their most extreme positions. But it also meant that the topic of the Cristero War became pretty much unmentionable in public. Historians know about it, of course; and I think it comes up in very briefly in high-school level history classes too. It's been almost a secreto a voces, an open secret, one of those things in Mexican public life that everyone knows but that everyone claims nobody knows.

Well, until this year's Miss Universe contest anyway.

Check this out. Or here's a similar story but without pictures and in English.

Yes, this year's Mexican contestant for the Miss Universe crown planned to attend the contest in a gown covered in the bloodiest images from the Cristero conflict. And sequins. She managed to offend nearly everyone in Mexico, secular and religious, leftwing and right, which is unusual in a beauty queen, and almost even admirable. So now she's editing the gown, apparently.

But the whole story is just so ... so Mexican, you know? Because, you know, some nations deal with the historical memory of civil war and religious conflict by having even bloodier wars later. Some nations practice ethnic cleansing. Some nations obsessively police their borders to prevent contamination by the ever-lurking threat of [insert menance here]. But not Mexico. In Mexico, they just take that unbearable memory and turn it into telenovelas and historietas and the tackiest possible outfits.

Seriously, I admire Mexican culture so much for doing precisely this, and doing it so well.
lolaraincoat: (movie camera)
They Might Be Spoilers )

So to sum up: you have to see it, it's just as good as everyone said it is, but wow, painful, ouchy, wow wow wow.

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