Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mexican Congressional Melee

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oaxaca Update Nov. 27, 2006

Governor Ruiz claims that the situation is almost under control. However, his claim is contradicted by the reality of events over the weekend.

Protesters hurling petrol bombs clashed with police in Oaxaca at the weekend in
the latest flare-up of a conflict that has engulfed the graceful colonial city in southern Mexico for more than six months. Buildings, including the supreme court of Oaxaca state, shops and restaurants, were set ablaze, and several streets were blocked by burning vehicles.

Most people were optimistic the situation woudl be under control by December 1st, the date schduled for transfer of power to incoming President-elect Felipe Calderon. That now seems unlikely with the inauguration only four days away.

In related news, self-proclaimed "legitimate President" Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has begun drawing his due salary of 50,000 pesos per month, the equivalent of around US $4,500. I'm just curious to know where it's coming from.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Las Posadas in Mexico

Christmas time in Mexico, like all Latin American countries is steeped in religious tradition. There are a lot of traditional activities that are centered around Christ much more than is seen in the United States. The foremost tradition is known as La Posada. Posada really translates to mean, the Inn, and is in keeping with the story of Joseph and Mary’s arrival into Bethlehem and finding no room in the Inn.
The tradition states that Joseph and Mary left on the 100 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem on the 16th of December and it took them 8 days and nights to arrive. Thus, the tradition of La Posada begins on the 16th of December every year.
The tradition is carried out in neighborhoods and most of the families participate. Each night one family is chosen to be the final Inn and two others are chosen to reject the couple. Thus begins a parade of usually children and a few teenagers going through the streets of the neighborhood, carrying with them statues of Mary and Joseph with Mary sitting on a Donkey and Joseph leading the way, and in other towns, people are used to represent Joseph and Mary.
The procession goes down the street until they come to the first “Inn” on their list. The next portion is done in song between the procession on the outside desiring to get in, and the “Innkeeper family” on the inside saying that there is no room. At the first two stops of the night, the following versus are sung.

Click here for full text

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oaxaca Update

The past week had been uneventful until just yesterday. Federal police and APPO supporters once again clashed in the city center for over four hours. Tear gas was used and the APPO reported 14 injuries, none appeared to be very serious. What is obvious is that the stand-off will continue for the foreseable future.

Last week, Oaxaca mission president Ortiz and his office staff returned to their normal routine in the city. None of the proselyting elders have returned yet. It appears the church is taking steps to reduce the number of missionaries in Oaxaca to acceptable levels for the areas they are currently in. Some of these steps that we have been notified of are 1) All missionaries (American and Mexican) scheduled to begin service between now and February have been re-assigned to different missions in Mexico. 2) All missionaries currently in Oaxaca scheduled to return home before February will be going home on November 22.

Some parents mistakenly interpreted these moves to mean that they area closing the Oaxaca Mission. This is not true. The mission office will remain open even though there will be no missionaries in the city. The mission covers a very large area, the majority of which is very safe and unaffected by recent events. The church in Oaxaca City is very strong with four stakes and even a temple that has continued in operation throughout this entire ordeal. I suspect that teh church in Oaxaca will emerge even stronger when everything calms down and the missionaries are able to return and resume their work.

In other news, presidential runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held a "swearing-in" ceremony yesterday in Mexico City's main Zocalo Plaza. He has even gone as far as to apoint a cabinet. Complete story here: Unelected Mexican Leftist Claims Office

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Presidential Showdown in the Making?

This is something we're going to be keeping a close eye on. Presidential politics in Mexico are never a sport for the faint of heart. This cycle has been the worst on record with the election results very close and emphatically disputed by the losers. President-elect Felipe Calderon from the PAN party is scheduled to take office on December 1st. The PRD candidate, Manuel Lopez Obrador, is vehemently alleging voter fraud despite any credible evidence. He insists that he is the rightful president and is mobilizing his political allies to disrupt the inauguration ceremony on December 1st "by any measures and actions deemed necessary".

The ceremony is still three weeks away and the weeks leading up to it will undoubdtedly bring more threats and posturing from both sides. To what lenghts is Lopez Obrador willing to go to disrupt the transfer of power? I don't think anybody knows at this point and that is perhaps the scariest aspect of the situation. Like I said, we will be keeping a close eye on this as it unfolds.


Operation: Dear Elder ***Update***

We're up to 48!
After barely one week since we kicked off, you've already placed 27 orders. Those plus 21 from Christy & me brings our current total to 48. Not bad for one week. We've got just over 3 more weeks to go. We will accept donation orders up until Thursday December 8th.

I received the following question from Dixie Finlayson today... "Can I put together what I would like to donate? My son has traded almost all of his ties to the Mexican Elders so that they can have nice ties. I would like to donate ties, socks, maybe even shirts for those missionaries, along with the toothbrushes and a little candy. In other words, I would like to give them things they can really use instead of just treats. Can I just donate the things I want to, or do I have to use your stockings?"

Answer: Yes, absolutely! If you want to send a package of your own creation, you can do that as well and we will add it to our total count. We will discount your shipping fees by $10 if you donate a package of your own. If you want to order one of our Operation: Dear Elder stocking packages and then send items to us to add to it, you will only pay the 20% for import taxes but will not pay any additional shipping charges for the extra weight.

Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions.

Peter Hightower

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Unhappy Times for Outgoing Presidente Fox

Mexican president Vicente Fox was heralded five years ago as a visionary come to restore true democracy to Mexico after eighty years of one-party rule. It's been an unfortunate year for the president who's come under much criticism during his fnial year in office. This past week has been oen of the worst yet. While this won't directly impact your missionary, this story is a great snapshot of the environment he's working in right now.

Read full story on The UK News

On a related subject, Mexicans are great at telling self-depracating jokes. I found the following nugget while researching for this post. Translated into English, it reads:

One day, God, being particularly fed up with humanity and it's sins decided to put an end to the world. He called all the world's leaders to tell them of his decision. "I've called you all here to inform you that in 24 hours I will put an end to humanity." "But Lord...." "No. No buts. Your time has ended. Go back to your peoples and let them know so they will be ready."

Bush arrived at the white house a short time later and announces on a nation-wide broadcast, "Citizens of the United States, I must tell you some good news and some bad news. First, the good news is that God does exist just like we thought. The bad news is that within 24 hours this great American nation, our beautiful dream will cease to exist."

Later, Fidel Castro arrives in Havana and addresses his nation. "Comrades and Cuban citizens, I have two peices of bad news. The first is that God does indeed exist. The second is that within 24 hours this magnificent revolution for which we have long fought and struggled will cease to exist."

Vicente Fox arrives at Los Pinos a short time later and addresses his country: "Mexicanos and Mexicanas! People of Mexico! Today, today, today... I have good news and more good news! The first is that I am sent of God, yes, even a messenger for I have seen Him and I have spoken personally with Him! The second is that according to my campaign promises, in 24 hours, listen well, there will be an end to all unemployment! There will be no more illiteracy! No more drug trafficking, crime, water shortages, highway congestion or poverty! And best of all I am rescinding the Federal Sales Tax on ALL products effective immidiately and there will be no more hunger or misery! The PAN delivers on it's promises!!!!!!!

Ok, I laughed out loud when I read that one just imagining Fox's deep booming voice. Hope you like it. My personal feelings are that Fox has done a good job in a difficult environment and has avoided the scandal-plagued term of every Mexican president since the beginning of time. He had a large mountain to climb and did his best to get as far as he could. Regardless of what criticisms the press holds, he's been good for Mexico and generally well-liked by his people. For what it's worth, I wish him the best in whatever he endeavors after leaving office.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New President for Guadalajara North

On Thursday, November 2nd, the missionaries of the Guadalajara North Mission welcomed their new mission president to his new assignment. President Robert Watkins and his wife Pamela had been serving as assistants to the South America South Area Presidency for the past year when the phone call asking them to accept the reassignment came in. President and Sister Watkins are from San Diego, California. We want to be the first to welcome them to their new assignment and wish them the best of luck and success during their tenure in Mexico.

President Heaton and his wife were released from their assignment due to health concerns after serving a year and a half. We join with his missionaries and the members in Guadalajara in wishing him a speedy recovery and the best of health going forward.

Peter & Christy Hightower

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Operation: Dear Elder

Today, we kick off "Operation: Dear Elder 2006". Last year YOU sent over 70 donation stockings to native missionaries from all over Mexico. There are at least four times that many who are in need, but we're setting our goal at 100 again this year. Christy & I are sending the first 21 packages. That's one for each mission.

Here is part of a letter we received from one of last year's recipients:

"Dear Peter & Christy, I just want to tell you thank you, thank you, thank
you for the care package! I was very surprised when I got it because I don't know anybody in the U.S. At first I thought you had made a mistake because I'm not American so I was a little confused. But I want to thank very much for thinking of me. I didn't think I would get any gifts this Christmas but yours was the best! I don't know you but I feel like I do now. Thanks for the service you gave as missionaries, it really is the best time of one's life. With love, Elder Gonzalez Jasso."
There are hundreds of missionaries like Elder Jasso from all over Mexico. We'd like to help them all, but we can't do it alone. Please help out if you can. It's a simple gesture but it really makes a huge difference for a missionary. Thank you!!!!

How Can I Help?

Last Call for Thanksgiving Packages


This really is an awesome package that your missionary will love. We're taking orders up until November 16th. Put your order in today.

Oaxaca Update

This past week has been as bad as could be imagined for the situation in Oaxaca. The optimism of just ten days ago has been shattered and it seems like the protestors' side is digging in deeper for the fight. First, this from church spokeswoman Kim Farah

"Missionary safety is of the upmost concern to the Church. The mission
president, his wife and all the missionaries in Oaxaca, Mexico were moved to
safe areas several days ago." Kim Farah - LDS Church Spokesman 11/2/2006

It appears church authorities were notified by Mexican officials in advance of the actions of federal police last Sunday and were able to remove all missionaries from the area before they were placed in harms way.

Since last Sunday, tensions have been high on both sides of this dispute.
On Friday, October 27, American reporter Brad Will was caught in a crossfire and killed by two bullets to the abdomen. Will the U.S. finally take notice of what's happening?
Sunday November 5, Thousands of protestors march in Oaxaca streets (Reuters Article) No surprise here.
Monday November 6, Protestors simultaneously bomb three targets in Oaxaca City, Governor Ruiz's party headquarters, an electoral court and a federal bank.
Tuesday November 7, Twenty thousand pro-Ruiz supporters march in Oaxaca to shore up support for the governor. (Reuters Article)

Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting worse not better at the moment. This excerpt from the first linked article sums up most people's fears:

His opponents, a loose coalition of teachers, Indian groups
and leftists, also vow not to give in and enjoy the support of a large part of
the mostly poor population of rural Oaxaca. ... "Many different leftist currents
are converging here, from the center-left of Lopez Obrador to the most radical,"
said Isaac Torres, a member of a human rights group affiliated with the
Zapatista guerillas.

There is already a feeling of disenfranchisement from many of the leftist groups throughout Southern Mexico stemming from the hotly contested presidential election of July 2 this year. The Leftist candidate, Manuel Lopez Obrador has bitterly refused to concede defeat and he continues to stir the pot of discontent among his followers. To date, the two movements are separate and distinct even though they share ideology. Many have feared these groups and others could eventually coalesce into a larger more far-reaching movement. Thankfully this has not happened yet, but the observer quoted above seems to feel it is finally happening. If this still hasn't been resolved by Felipe Calderon's Inauguration on December 2nd, there will be fireworks.