Felipe for prez!

MOUNTAINTOP IN MEXICO — (AP) The bizarre presidential race in the United States was thrown into further turmoil today when Felipe Zapata tossed his sombrero into the mess.

candidate
Himself

Felipe, a controversial blogger — you either love him or loathe him — is, like Ted Cruz, a dual national. But, unlike Cruz, Felipe — who prefers to be called by one name à la Cher or Prince — will not trash his foreign passport.

He sees multiculturalism as a campaign plus.

The shocking announcement was made outside Felipe’s huge, colorful Hacienda in a hardscrabble neighborhood on the edge of a mystery village in the middle of Mexico.

The international press was missing, as was the Mexican, and the audience of four were Felipe’s family members who were eating burritos and drinking Coca-Cola.

Felipe’s brisk platform consists of six planks:

  1. The Mexican problem: This will be solved by building a 20-foot-high wall along America’s southern border. The U.S. will pay for it, not Mexico. Ten yards behind the wall will be an alligator-filled moat and machine-gun nests.
  2. The drug problem: This will be solved by canceling the ridiculous War on Drugs.  Getting stoned will be legal for adults. This will also help the Mexican problem.
  3. The economic problem: The Internal Revenue Service will be dissolved, and a 10 percent flat tax will be levied on all earnings, both business and personal. This will increase government income, plus the economy will boom.
  4. The welfare problem: All government handouts will cease with one exception: People who are demonstrably disabled and/or over the age of 65.
  5. The university problem: Safe spaces will be outlawed. Anyone found in a safe space or even asking for the location of one will be executed and buried in an undisclosed location where they will be safe till the end of time.
  6. The Mohammedan problem: U.S. mosques will be bulldozed, and Mohammedan men will lose their scimitars and be sent to slave camps. Mohammedan women’s heads and legs will be uncovered.  A blue-ribbon panel from the Jonesboro Baptist Church will decide what to do about the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, of course.

Felipe will run — and win — as an Independent. Campaign contributions should be send to his PayPal account, which will be up and running lickety-split.

His child bride will be America’s first Mexican First Lady.

His campaign slogan: Make America Legally Mexican And, Oh Yeah, Great Again.

We’re back!

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Enjoying a smoke in the cool mountain air.

WHEN I MOVED south of the border in 2000, nobody asked me if I was afraid because there was no reason to be.

It was great for six years.

Then something happened during the administration of Felipe Calderón, a president I voted for. I believe his hard-nosed approach to the narco issue made things worse.

Violence between narcos and police and military escalated, and violence between narco gangs themselves spiked.

Your average citizen remained safe, however.

It didn’t take many stories — one, actually — of severed heads rolling across cantina floors plus hundreds of Americans* being slain to stop tourism dead in its tracks here.

When we first visited Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast years ago, there were always cruise ships in the bay. That stopped. We haven’t seen even one in a long time.

My mountaintop town, a 16th century colonial beauty on the shore of a huge lake, lives off tourism. To a large degree, that screeched to a halt too. It was quite noticeable.

But, through those bad years, a tourist’s chances of encountering violence was virtually zero, no more so than what one faces during a winter weekend in Tampa.

Our bad reputation was fueled nonstop by an irresponsible, clueless, American news media with the assist of an absolutely hysterical U.S. State Department whose “travel warnings” were laughable to anyone who lived here.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012 things calmed down considerably, but our ill fame lived on. But now, four years later, things appear to be changing.

In recent weeks, the quantity of tourists to our quaint mountain town has skyrocketed. For those of us who do not depend on tourism, it just means more traffic snarls. But to many others, it means a livelihood.

I am happy about this. Perhaps this is a light at the end of a long tunnel and that clear thinking and rationality are coming to the forefront. It’s a great place to live.

And an even better place to visit.

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Jam-packed central plaza on Sunday.

* The Americans are invariably named Garcia, Torres, Hernandez, never Smith or Jones. They are inhabitants of border zones who get involved in the narco trade, and often end up dead, but they are U.S. citizens. They are not tourists.

Cement, hammers, nails

HERE’S SOMETHING about Mexico you don’t know if you don’t live here: Our nation’s in a building frenzy. You can hardly drive an urban mile without passing numerous construction projects. You’ll see them on rural miles too.

These can be small, medium or large in scale. Businesses that sell construction materials are ubiquitous.* Trucks carrying material down the road from Point A to Point B are an hourly sight. Cement, rebar, bricks, you name it.

We never stop building here — or renovating.

hammerI view this positively. A nation that’s constantly building is a nation that’s moving ahead, and Mexico is moving forward at a remarkable pace.

(We’re even taking steps to legalize marijuana, and that would be lousy for the narcos and great for the rest of us.)

Construction labor is inexpensive. Compared to the United States, it’s incredibly cheap. I like this, of course.

A man who builds things here is called an albañil. It’s invariably a man. I’ve yet to spot a female albañil.

Mexico knows men and women differ.

A Spanish-English dictionary often defines albañil as bricklayer, but a good albañil does far more than lay bricks. A great albañil is a magician. He can build anything.

Barry Obama, the Mohammedan sympathizer and half-white Hawaiian-Indonesian, would not be able to look an albañil in the eye and say, “You did not build that” because the albañil would have built it, and built it quite well.

(Yes, I can inject politics anywhere.)

Unlike tradesmen in the United States and teachers in Mexico, albañiles are not unionized.  You never encounter them blocking highways because they are out of sorts.

The lack of trade unions is a big reason you can get work done at a very good price south of the Rio Bravo.

Many, perhaps most, get into the profession as children, helping relatives. An albañil now working at the Hacienda began when he was 13. Now 40, he’s remarkably talented.

Perhaps the narcos who find themselves without income due to drug legalization will put down their M16s and turn to honest construction work. There’s lots to be done.

Mexico is on the move.

* * * *

* I rarely use two-dollar words, but sometimes it’s fun.

The dead are coming

Muertos

WALKING AROUND the downtown plaza on a lovely, cool, October afternoon today, I noticed these windows across the street and their Day of the Dead banners.

Yes, the Day of the Dead approaches. It’s when we celebrate dead people, most of whom hereabouts are found in cemeteries, just like where you live.

This will be my 15th Day of the Dead, or Los Muertos as the natives call it, and it’s changed quite a bit in that time, mostly for the better. Every year a tianguis, which is a street market, comes to the downtown plaza. My first year, in 2000, it was poorly organized, butt ugly, and included lots of five-and-dime junk. That’s changed.

Now it’s nicely organized, covered by a uniform tent all around, and most of the junk is gone. Artisans from all over our state — and beyond — come to sell stuff, and lots of that stuff is creative and beautiful.

The primary draw, of course, is not the tianguis but the eerie, candlelit night in the cemeteries, which can be quite moving and incredible if there aren’t too many tourists underfoot. Best to choose your cemetery with care.

Our town is one of Mexico’s primary tourist destinations for Los Muertos. With luck, it will be a raging success this year because the merchants need that. We’ve had a bad rep for years, due to the dumb U.S. media* bludgeoning us on a regular basis because of “narco violence,” most of which does not affect tourists in the slightest.

But it’s hit tourism hard.

Narco violence, such as it ever was, has pretty much vanished. The touchiest times occurred about five years ago hereabouts, and a year or two ago there were problems in remote, rural areas of the state, but that’s blown over too. You’re safer here than in most of the United States today. Believe it.

But our reputation lives on, sadly. And the U.S. media continue to misrepresent and harm us.

Yes, most of the dead are in the cemeteries, and you will not be among them. Not horizontally, at least.

* * * *

* The U.S. State Department is no better with its warnings issued by clueless officials who’ve obviously never set foot in our tranquil, picturesque area.