When Iztapalapians Fear Crime, Their Government Paints Murals

(p. A6) MEXICO CITY — Observed from a soaring cable car, the city is a sea of concrete stretching to the horizon, ruptured only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes.

. . .

The 6.5-mile line, inaugurated in August [2021]When I, is the longest public cableway in the world, according to the city government. As well as halving the commute time for many workers in the capital’s most populous borough, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of which can be viewed only from above.

. . .

The rooftop paintings are the latest step in a beautification project from Iztapalapa’s government, which has hired some 140 artists over the past three years to blanket the neighborhood with almost 7,000 pieces of public art, creating explosions of color in one of the most crime-ridden areas of Mexico City.

. . .

But despite the government’s efforts, most in Iztapalapa continue to live in fear: According to a June survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency, nearly eight of 10 residents said they felt unsafe — among the highest rate for any city in the country.

Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 municipalities in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed because of her gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more instances of sexual assault against women in Iztapalapa than in any other Mexico City borough, according to a 2019 report from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

That gender-based violence is what prompted the mural and lighting project in the first place, according to the mayor: to create pathways where women could feel safe walking home. Many of the murals celebrate women, either residents like Ms. Bautista or famous figures from history as well as feminist symbols.

. . .

Daniela Cerón, 46, was born in Iztapalapa when it was just a rugged community, with open fields where farmers grew crops.

“It was like the little town,” Ms. Cerón recalled. “You used to see the beautiful hills.”

. . .

As far as the murals go, she says they look beautiful but have done little to make her feel safer.

“It does nothing for me to have a very pretty painted street if three blocks away, they’re robbing or murdering people,” she said.

Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa, believes they can make residents prouder of where they live, but she admits they can only go so far.

“Paint helps a lot, but sadly it can’t change the reality of social problems,” she said.“A mural isn’t going to change whether you care about the woman being beat up on the corner.”

For the full story, see:

Oscar Lopez. “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; A Respite for Lives Battered by Poverty and Crime.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 14, 2021): A6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “MEXICO CITY DISPATCH; Frida Kahlo, Aztec Gods: Can Art Lift Up a Poor Neighborhood?”)

“Operation Warp Speed, . . . , Is More Imaginative Than the Bureaucratic Norm”

(p. 11) . . . the blundering of the Trump administration, while real and deadly, may not be responsible for the bulk of America’s coronavirus fatalities.

. . .

. . . : the absence of challenge trials for vaccines (in which young, healthy participants agree to be vaccinated and then infected with the virus), the predictable expert resistance to at-home testing. But the most important one was the straightforward bureaucratic calamity at the C.D.C. that delayed effective testing for a fateful month.

An effective president might have addressed some of these problems. (Although Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s vaccine initiative, is more imaginative than the bureaucratic norm.) But overall they are problems with structures and habits rather than personalities — an institutional decadence that predated Trump and will persist when he is gone.

. . .

. . . the third thing you see when you look beyond Trump [is] the fact that so many countries in Western Europe, to say nothing of our neighbors in the Americas, have had death rates similar to ours.

This reality speaks not of exceptionalism but of convergence — and the possibility that the trends of the early 21st century have left us sharing more in common not only with France and Spain but also with Mexico and Brazil than most Americans might expect.

This, too, may matter long after Trump is gone. Where there are crises, in this dispensation, they are likely to be general rather than just American. Where there is decadence, it is the shared experience of late modernity. And if renewal comes to an exhausted West, it will not necessarily come through America alone.

For the full commentary, see:

Ross Douthat. “What Isn’t Trump’s Fault.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, September 13, 2020): 11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 12, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Guacamole “Toast-Munching Hipsters” Can Relax: Gene Edited Avocados Would Thrive Under Global Warming

(p. B1) Last month, a team of scientists in the United States and Mexico announced that it had mapped the DNA sequences of several types of avocados, including the popular Hass variety. That research is likely to become the foundation for breeding techniques and genetic modifications designed to produce avocados that can resist disease or survive in drier conditions.

Whether they realize it or not, this could be big news for toast-munching hipsters. Already, rising temperatures are disrupting the avocado supply chain, causing price increases across the United States that have also been exacerbated by trade uncertainty.

“Because of climate change, temperature might not be the same, humidity might not be the same, the soil might be different, new insects will come and diseases will come,” said Luis Herrera-Estrella, a plant genomics professor at Texas Tech University who led the avocado project. “We need to be prepared to contend with all these inevitable challenges.”

. . .

(p. B5) “There are avocados that grow in very hot places with little water, and there are avocados that grow more in rainy places,” Dr. Herrera-Estrella said. “If we can identify genes that confer heat tolerance and drought tolerance, then we can engineer the avocados for the future.”

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany. “Genes Ripe for Editing.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 28, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on Sept. 30 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Avocado Toast, Meet Gene Editing.”)

In 1596 Luis de Carvajal Was Burned at the Stake for “Observing Jewish Practices”

(p. C1) It is perhaps the most significant artifact documenting the arrival of Jews in the New World: a small, tattered 16th-century manuscript written in an almost microscopic hand by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, the man whose life and pain it chronicled.
Until 1932, the 180-page booklet by de Carvajal, a secret Jew who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Spain’s colony of Mexico, resided in that country’s National Archives.
. . .
(p. C6) De Carvajal was a Jew who posed as Catholic in New Spain, now Mexico, during a period when the Inquisition ruthlessly persecuted heretics and false converts with deportation, imprisonment, torture and grisly public executions.
. . .
In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was 30.

For the full story, see:
JOSEPH BERGER. “A Jewish Treasure in Fine Print.” The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 4, 2017): C1 & C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 1, 2017, and has the title “A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved.”)

Carvajal’s writings were translated into English and published in:
Carvajal, Luis de. The Enlightened; the Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo. Translated by Seymour B. Liebman. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1967.

Annual Benefits of NAFTA: Canada $50 Billion, United States $127 Billion, Mexico $170 Billion

(p. 249) Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Cathleen Cimino, and Tyler Moran evaluate “NAFTA at 20: Misleading Charges and Positive Achievements.” . . . “Ample econometric evidence documents the substantial payoff from expanded two-way trade in goods and services. Through multiple channels, benefits flow both from larger exports and larger imports. . . . The (p. 250) channels include more efficient use of resources through the workings of comparative advantage, higher average productivity of surviving firms through ‘sifting and sorting,’ and greater variety of industrial inputs and household goods. . . . As a rough rule of thumb, for advanced nations, like Canada and the United States, an agreement that promotes an additional $1 billion of two-way trade increases GDP by $200 million. For an emerging country, like Mexico, the payoff ratio is higher: An additional $1 billion of two-way trade probably increases GDP by $500 million. Based on these rules of thumb, the United States is $127 billion richer each year thanks to ‘extra’ trade growth, Canada is $50 billion richer, and Mexico is $170 billion richer. For the United States, with a population of 320 million, the pure economic payoff is almost $400 per person.” Peterson Institute for International Economics, May 2014, Number PB14-13. http://www.piie.com/publications/pb/pb14-13.pdf.

Source:
Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 249-56.
(Note: first ellipsis added; other ellipses in original.)

Zambrano Was Cement Process Innovator

(p. A22) Beginning in 1992, Mr. Zambrano bought up far-flung producers to create the third-largest cement company in the world. He remade each new acquisition, introducing high technology and logistical efficiencies that made Cemex the subject of business school case studies at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
From his own computer Mr. Zambrano could monitor any Cemex operation in more than 50 countries, said Rossana Fuentes-Berain, a Mexican journalist who wrote a 2007 book about Mr. Zambrano, “Grey Gold.”
What distinguished him was “the technology, the management and the hunger to prove that you can be as good as anybody in the market,” Ms. Fuentes-Berain said.

For the full obituary, see:
ELISABETH MALKIN. “Lorenzo Zambrano, 70, Leader of Cemex, Dies.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 15, 2014): A22.
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date MAY 13, 2014, and has the title “Lorenzo H. Zambrano, Head of Cement Giant Cemex, Dies at 70.”)

The biography mentioned above, as of this posting, is only available in Spanish:
Fuentes-Berain, Rossana. Oro Gris: Zambrano, La Gesta de Cemex y la Globalizacion en Mexico. Aguilar, 2007.

Mexicans Abandon Government Subsidized Housing Developments

(p. A5) ZUMPANGO, Mexico — In an enormous housing development on the edge of this scrappy commuter town, Lorena Serrano’s 11-foot-wide shoe box of a home is flanked by abandoned houses. The neighborhood has two schools, a few bodegas and a small community center that offers zumba classes.
There is very little else.
“There are no jobs, no cinema, no cantina,” said Ms. Serrano of the 8,000-home development, called La Trinidad. Her husband’s commute to the capital, Mexico City, about 35 miles south, takes two hours each way by bus and consumes a quarter of his salary, she said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Ms. Serrano, 39, is among more than five million Mexicans who, over the past decade, bought houses through a government program that made mortgages available to low-income buyers.
The program, initially hailed by some experts as the answer to Mexico’s chronic housing deficit, fueled a frenzy of construction and helped inspire similar efforts in Latin America and beyond, including Brazil’s “My House, My Life,” which aims to build at least 3 million homes by this year.
But the concrete sprawl around Mexico City and other big towns grew faster than demand. Commutes proved unbearable, and residents abandoned their homes.

For the full story, see:
VICTORIA BURNETT. “ZUMPANGO JOURNAL; They Built It. People Came. Now They Go.” The New York Times (Tues., SEPT. 9, 2014): A5.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 8, 2014.)

Mexican Universal Health Care: “There Are No Doctors, No Medicine, No Hospital Beds”

(p. 6) A decade ago, half of all Mexicans had no health insurance at all. Then the country’s Congress passed a bill to ensure health care for every Mexican without access to it. The goal was explicit: universal coverage.

By September, the government expects to have enrolled about 51 million people in the insurance plan it created six years ago — effectively reaching the target, at least on paper.
The big question, critics contend, is whether all those people actually get the health care the government has promised.
. . .
The money goes from the federal government to state governments, depending on how many people each state enrolls. From there, it is up to state governments to spend the money properly so that patients get the promised care.
That, critics say, is the plan’s biggest weakness. State governments have every incentive to register large numbers, but they do not face any accountability for how they spend the money.
“You have people signed up on paper, but there are no doctors, no medicine, no hospital beds,” said Miguel Pulido, the executive director of Fundar, a Mexican watchdog group that has studied the poor southern states of Guerrero and Chiapas.
Mr. Chertorivski acknowledges that getting some states to do their work properly is a problem. “You can’t do a hostile takeover,” he said.
The result is that how Mexicans are treated is very much a function of where they live. Lucila Rivera Díaz, 36, comes from one of the poorest regions in Guerrero. She said doctors there told her to take her mother, who they suspected had liver cancer, for tests in the neighboring state of Morelos.

For the full story, see:
ELISABETH MALKIN. “Mexico Struggles to Realize the Promise of Universal Health Care.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 30, 2011): 6.
(Note: the online version of the story is dated January 29, 2011 and has the title “Mexico’s Universal Health Care Is Work in Progress.”)
(Note: ellipsis added.)

How Bacardi Fought Predatory Taxation in Pre-Castro Cuba

BacardiAndTheLongFightForCubaBK2011-02-05.jpg

Source of book image: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21shelf.html?_r=1

(p. W6) When it comes to chronicling the Bacardi rum dynasty, the best model may be “Buddenbrooks” or some other novelistic attempt to capture the experience of a family business trying to survive across generations. Tom Gjelten’s “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba” — though fact-driven history and far more upbeat that Thomas Mann’s tale of dynastic decline — feels very much in this literary tradition.
. . .
Perhaps the most fascinating figure in the Bacardi tale is José Bosch, called Pepín, a young businessman who also married into the Bacardi family and was an early opponent of Gerardo Machado’s corrupt rule in the 1920s. Machado made Bacardi, one of Cuba’s most successful companies, a target of predatory taxation, but a proposed rum tax was more than the distiller could stand. Bacardi opened new facilities in Mexico and threatened to move its operations there if the tax was enacted. The Cuban legislature dropped the idea — and Bacardi soon found itself with a Mexican distillery it didn’t need, trying to sell a liquor to tequila- quaffing public that didn’t want it.
Bosch was dispatched in 1933 to shut down the Mexican facility, but instead he saved it. “Noticing that Mexicans drank a lot of Coca-Cola,” Mr. Gjelten writes, Bosch urged the company to promote Bacardi-and-Coke cocktails. Observing the rich tradition of Mexican handicrafts, he also suggested that the locals would be more inclined to drink rum if it was sold in the sort of wicker-covered jugs often used for it in Cuba. Sales in 1934 doubled.

For the full review, see:
ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA. “The Family Spirit.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., September 12, 2008): W6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

The book being reviewed, is:
Gjelten, Tom. Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. New York: Viking Penguin, 2008.

Some Hispanics Support Arizona Immigration Law

StoletoSpousesDisagreeArizonaLaw2010-11-14.jpg“Shayne Sotelo opposes Arizona’s new immigration law, while her husband, Efrain, supports it.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 28) PHOENIX — Arizona’s immigration law, which politicians have debated in the Legislature, lawyers have sparred over in the courtroom and advocates have shouted about on the street, has found its way up a driveway in central Phoenix, through the front door and right onto the Sotelo family’s kitchen table.
. . .
That such a divisive social issue would divide some families is not surprising. But what makes the Sotelos stand out is that they are both Latinos, he a Mexican immigrant who was born in the northern state of Chihuahua and she a descendant of Spanish immigrants who grew up in Colorado.
While polls show that a vast majority of Latinos nationwide side with Mrs. Sotelo in opposing Arizona’s law, that opposition is not uniform. “All Latinos are not opposed to this law — that’s too simplistic,” said Cecilia Menjivar, an Arizona State University sociologist. There are other Mr. Sotelos out there, including an Arizona state legislator, Representative Steve B. Montenegro, a Republican who immigrated from El Salvador and became the only Latino lawmaker to vote in favor of the bill.
. . .
[Mr. Sotelo] thinks his adopted state has been unfairly maligned since the law passed. “I’m a Hispanic, and I don’t have any issues walking the streets,” he said. “They make it seem like the police or sheriff are out there checking everyone’s papers, and that’s not so.”

For the full story, see:
MARC LACEY. “One Family’s Debate Shows Arizona Law Divides Latinos, Too.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., October 31, 2010): 28.
(Note: ellipses added; bracketed name added to replace “He.”)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 30, 2010 and has the title “Arizona Immigration Law Divides Latinos, Too.”)

Legalizing Drugs in U.S. Would Reduce Mexican Crime Wave

FoxVicente2010-08-29.jpg

Vicente Fox. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 14) Is there anything to be done about the drug wars that are terrorizing Mexicans today and that have reportedly caused 25,000 deaths in the past three years?
That has to be dealt with together by the United States and Mexico. It’s a joint problem and a joint challenge. The U.S. provides the markets and guns that come back to Mexico and allow the cartels to be active.

You think the United States is causing Mexico’s crime wave?
Absolutely, yes. The cartel gangs are nourished through the drug consumption in the United States. That’s why my position is that we should move as fast as possible into legalizing drug consumption.

For the full interview, see:

DEBORAH SOLOMON. “QUESTIONS FOR VICENTE FOX; Border Rap.” The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., July 25, 2010): 14.

(Note: bold in original, to indicate questions by Deborah Solomon.)
(Note: the online version of the interview is dated July 23, 2010.)

.