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Respected intellectual, writer, political analyst, historian, publisher loses once sharp critical eye, finds president’s questionable ways compatible

“Vigilantes on the March” was the rousing title of an op-ed piece in the New York Times February 3.

Campesino girl’s career as a fearless eleven-year-old, beating up taunting male schoolmates while wrestling with mathematics 

Sixteen-year-old Concha Rosales was riding fence again. She got that hard job because when her father was attending to other chores, her cousin, Lalo, took his place.

Veterans vs. Memorial Day;  Veterans Day vs. any cliched consideration that’s gone in a moment

Veterans Day arrival takes time for some of us to digest, to ponder, to meditate on, trying to qualify thought vs. emotion.   And certainly it deserves the time and analysis that takes.

A leadership revival? At this moment? It’s clearly needed. Yet that challenge seems beyond the ken of those now in view

“The Leadership Revival,” is a provocative January 13 column by David Brooks, who is one of the New York Times’ columnists reviewing the adventures of American conservatives inside and outside the preserves officially occupied by the Grand Old Party.

JFK: early encounters, 1960 political lessons

Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post is a dutiful, sometimes thoughtful columnist specializing in economic affairs.  He got on the John F. Kennedy media train early (November 10) to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th president of the United States.  He was six, he says, when JFK was killed. 

Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine debate produces some instructive conclusions from the right for today’s political nadir 

As the dizzying days of Christmas and the new year give way to other concerns, the coming mid-term elections in the United States are being pressed upon us by heavy media breathing north of the border.

Concha shuns public school for home schooling and tales of brave heroines

Sixteen-year-old Concha Rosales and her eight-foot rattler have prompted reader comments.  Some don’t say it outright but seem stirred by a fear of snakes.  Some frankly say that no “rational” 16-year-old girl would be so “reckless.”

A chilled, rainy winter tests teenager’s judgement and skills in a muddy, slippery and dangerous mountainside challenge  

An unseasonable biting wind brought sleety rains, mornings that put rubbery rims of ice on horse troughs, and harried rural residents of Jalisco’s mountainsides.

Is Day of the Dead still a day of celebration?

For some Mexicans a dolorous mood hangs over days that traditionally have been celebrated with high hearts, beginning with the Thursday, October 31 celebration of  El Dia de Brjuas (The Day of Sorcerers).  Friday was Dia de Los Santos (All Saints Day),  remembering los angelitos, the “little angels,” who died in infancy.   Saturday is Dia de los Muertos, (Day of the Dead), also called Fieles Difuntos and La Parca, honoring teen-agers and adults.  By whatever name, this cluster of days has become more complex – emotionally and spiritually – in recent years.  This complexity grows out of myriad kidnappings and of mass, and individual, random slayings by drug gangs.  Especially troubling is the slice of the kidnappings that a discomforting number of eye-witnesses report are carried out at the hands of the Mexican military.

Christmas, New Year’s, the blues and depression don’t really go together, nor does nostalgia, a treasure of good cheer

A cloudy, chill rain greeted the middle of Mexico’s long-stretch Christmas which began December 8 ­– the celebration of immaculate conception of “the Virgin Mary, Mother of God” – and continues until Three King’s Day, January 6.  Slithering wet clouds gave mountain areas of Jalisco a hue so solemn – and cold – that some folks seemed downcast.

How to kill and butcher a rattler for supper

How does a 16-year-old girl kill an eight-foot rattlesnake? Today’s semi-cute answer is a worn cliche: “Very carefully.”  Actually, despite the simpering intent, it’s accurate. 

Many Mexicans face a new year with a tincture of edginess, others with all-out skepticism, still others with belief

This nation leaves a lackluster economic 2013, stuffed with uncertainty for a new year that the Mexican street views as more of the same.

Hunting for the elusive, often falsely dubbed middle class

It wasn’t, isn’t, won’t be (any time soon) an “economic version of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” a Time magazine reporter wrote March 8.  And for the corps of such long time on-the-ground observers of Mexico’s puzzling and certainly surreal government, the Niagra of north-of-the-border stories gushing about the booming Mexican middle class prompted bemused puzzlement.

Mexico’s long-haul ‘Las Dicembrinas,’ and the opportunity to still fit in gifts of Mexican-flavored books

Late ordering books for friends, relatives living in Mexico?  Relax.  Christmas in Mexico is a long-haul celebration – as all celebrations should be, despite those guests to the Estados Unidos Mexicanos who complain of “all those damned fireworks” – by which they usually mean cohetes, skyrockets.

An ancient curse and a hard first year for a president

The second people of great significance preceding the Aztecs into the Valley of Mexico were the Tepanecs.  Their key city was Azcapotzalco which then dominated the valley and had a cultural tradition prior to the Tepanecs of nearly a thousand years.  A bit before A.D. 1300, the people we know today as the Aztecs (they called themselves Mexica – me-shee-ka – until a Spanish historian prompted the use of “Aztec” in the 18th century) arrived and settled in what now is Chaputlepec.  They were not welcomed.  Noted as perversely savage trouble-makers, who tended to slaughter neighbors, the Mexicas had a rough time there and were expelled twice. This is where today’s Mexican presidents reside.  Some of those presidents have sworn the old gods jinxed the place. Today, several 21st century political and cultural observers suggest that if that were true, those ancient gods are tweaking the Republic of Mexico’s present leader, Enrique Peña Nieto, with a canastafull of testing.

War, odd history, presumptuousness: ‘The Second War of Independence’ as the US Navy takes on British sea power

History, with the stability one moment of a stone mountain and the next all the buoyancy of quicksand, is presently the target of allegiance by both fervent believers and disbelievers.

Education effort gets stalled

When Concha Rosales was 16 she did something she hated.  She asked someone to help her without getting angry about it.  Something she hadn’t done since she was six or seven, she later said.  Her false siblings were too surprised to make fun of her. Chema and Guadalupe Rosales, the man and woman who had (unknown to Concha) informally adopted her, gave each other quizzical glances and later agreed it was just another odd bump along the road to growing up. 

Pearl Harbor, the War of 1812:  War at sea teaches harsh lessons to those who embrace complacency and a flaccid grasp of reality

Cataclysmic occurrences mark us forever.  The assassination of John F. Kennedy for instance.  And for considerably older folks, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese December 7, 1941. 

The hollow crown and governance by ‘iron whimsy’

This new century began with Mexicans’ average consumption of books scored at less than one a year.  Mexico subsequently was tagged by some as “the country that stopped reading.”  Yet today books offering impolitely well-documented assessments of the rulers of the Republic are breaking records, popping into being like popcorn.  But truth’s a risky business. Today’s rulers tolerate truth no happier than their New Spain forebearers in Father Miguel Hidalgo’s time.  Take for instance Anabel Hernandez’s investigation of government officials’ allegedly profitable relations with the nation’s raft of drug gangs.  Her book, published in English this month, is titled “Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers.” 

Storm-crowded late November stings a campesino girl’s family, sending her to a ‘medieval’ government hospital

On a November morning in the early 1960s, the young girl woke, listening to another of the stinging series of unseasonable mountainside storms.  Daily temperatures fell, afternoon and nightly rains increased clasping the scattered adobe homes of the extended Rosales family in their grip.  The many-branched clan, along with their herds, flocks, coveys and packs of livestock and poultry, accepted this soaking chill stoically.  It was just a natural turn of weather. 

A wet and dark Sixteenth of September

Setting out to check on the local pueblo celebration of Miguel Hidalgo’s 1810 grito launching Mexico’s war of independence, was a stormy errand. True, it was a mandatory national celebration, and one that the corps of folk who waveringly operated the local cabecera (county seat) vehemently promised to conduct — despite a long-running series of rainstorms of Tlalocian persistence. The downhill dirt road was steep and as slippery. Much of the citizenry believed local officials, despite their strutting and loud words, would call the game due to weather. Such citizens decided to forego this example of frail patriotism. My own chance to observe this bit of weak-heartedness was foiled by a late evening version of Chuma Chavez’s cow-lot cabaret. Chuma’s cow-lot in the mornings as he milks his small herd, offers laborers on their way to work a clay cup — or three — of freshly warm milk spiked with straight alcohol, for an easy price.