Good News/Bad News; Mangos and Politics

20 Apr

Do you prefer the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is that it’s election season. The good news is that it’s also mango season!! So you can be a hapless bystander at a politically-motivated shooting, but afterwards you can buy a whole bag full of mangos for just 10 pesos! I’m drooling right now just talking about it. 30703725_1775046295885743_4088949457251467264_n

Ten pesos of mangos!

Now, if you’re from the US you’ll appreciate the good news about elections here. The season is relatively short- just a couple of months of people paying attention, putting up billboards, driving around with annoying songs pouring from loudspeakers. I mean, it’s mid-April, and we’re just now starting to be inundated with madness; elections are all over on the first of July! It’s not like in the US where you start hearing about candidates more than a year in advance.

The bad news, however, is that this year’s election season is big time; this year there are presidential elections here in Mexico. Which means they up the ante on the already-high levels of political passion, corruption, and violence.

Who are the candidates? I don’t really know. I’ve seen their names and all, but after almost six years here I’m still not clear on politics. There’s a guy from the ruling party whose name looks English, and now some people are purposely pronouncing it like you would in English, because otherwise it’s too close to a word in Spanish that’s like “pissed-himself.” Teeheehee. This ruling party seems to me to be the more elite, for-the-rich political party, although many a poor person supports them, because their family supports them, and they’ve always supported that party, and therefore it’s just the right thing to do! Plus they might give you a bag full of staple foods for your house if you vote for them. And maybe a t-shirt to boot. So, obviously they have your best interests in mind. This party is responsible for having privatized a lot of Mexico’s wealth, including the gasoline. They’re also responsible for the recent Education Reform (which I wrote a little about here), so you know that teachers are not voting for them. This party’s big political theme translates to something like, “Making progress, with you.” We don’t know what they propose to make progress on, but they’re going to do so- with you!

There’s some other big-time party that doesn’t seem all that different from the ruling party, except obviously they have less money currently because I don’t see their billboards up everywhere. This party, however, seems about equally as likely to give you a t-shirt and some rice and assure you that they’re going to take care of you.

Then there’s some other party that touts itself as more for-the-people, but who knows what they actually do for the people. Even their name, Morena, literally can mean dark-skinned woman, so it sounds pretty appealing. This party supposedly has a candidate who’s run for president a bunch of times and never even come close, which reminds me of Salvador Allende in Chile and gives me all the warm fuzzies even though I know zilch about this candidate’s politics. That’s the sum total of my savvy political gringa knowledge. (Don’t judge me; I warned you that I know nothing. The good news is that I’m not allowed to vote, so I can’t harm anyone with my ignorance!)

In other good news, despite hearing quite a few bullets, not only was my family not shot, but apparently no one was actually shot. No one was killed. I didn’t even hear of any hospitalizations. I guess someone just wanted to break up the protest. The ruling party’s “pissed-himself” presidential candidate was in town, for some unknown reason. Why Coastal Oaxaca? Shoulder shrug. Of course the teachers and some other folks were there to say, “Hell no.”

The bad news, however, is that at a protest that included a lot of teachers, they couldn’t put correct accents on their fanciest signs. “Mexico Ya Desperto” the sign said, which should mean Mexico Woke Up…. but not quite. I know, I’m being petty. But this was a sign they’d paid to have made, not just some scribbles on poster board. And some of y’all are teachers! Get your signs right! You’re not making your case well.

In case you were wondering, I was not actually attending the protest. I have taken my kids to protests and other political actions before. I did not take them to a protest here during election season, however. Some folks were there with kids, and that’s their right, and I respect that. Personally, I don’t have enough faith or investment in the political process here to go protest about that. Now if we’re protesting the health care system, or the lack of basic services, or treatment of women during childbirth here, count me in! But I digress. We ended up in the blatantly wrong place at the wrong time because I needed caldo, a fantastic broth-based soup. I had an exemplary, nourishing caldo made with farm-raised chicken and a bunch of veggies. The downside of that is that my need for caldo to soothe my sore throat was what allowed my cold-addled brain to think it was okay to be within stone-throwing distance from a protest during election season.

So we’re leaving the restaurant and right as we were getting into the car, I heard a driver coming from the direction our car was pointed in telling a taxi driver not to go that way. “That’s where the (something muffled I didn’t distinguish) is,” he told him, shaking his head. I saw a bunch of folks in pairs and small groups walking quickly in the opposite direction. “Go the other way!” I told Conan, even though he was already doing it. Then we heard gun shots. People were running instead of walking. I made the kids lower their heads in the back seat, pushing Khalil’s down for him because that child never wants to obey without a good explanation. (Where does he get it from?) Then more shots.

Here’s the other good news: random public gun violence is not the norm here. I don’t usually have to worry about these straight white male terrorists- like we have in such excess in the states- going around shooting people on a regular basis. I know, you’ve probably heard about the extreme violence happening in some Mexican states due to the drug trade (and lots of political corruption). And that’s definitely happening in some places. Where I live we’re mostly pretty removed from all that. And outside of the obvious “bad guys” selling drugs or being politicians or being cops, Mexico doesn’t have a general culture of gun violence. There are no school shootings. No workplace shootings. No church shootings. Granted, people like to get out their guns and shoot up into the sky to celebrate things, which may not be my style. But in general I feel way safer from gun violence here than in the US.

And did I mention the mangos? Election season may be in full swing, but so is mango season. In the span of just one week, the same week that billboards and bad music started happening, that magical thing occurred where the price dropped from 20 to 10 pesos for a bag bursting with fresh, juicy mangos of all kinds. That makes it official. Corrupt elections happen all over the place, but not everyplace has this quality of life.

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