So I’m in Mexico City at the moment. Why am I here? I’m looking for county-level homicide data back to 1950. Thus far, I haven’t found it. INEGI, the national statistics agency, didn’t have it. The Instituto Nacional de Estudios Penales didn’t have it. The health ministry didn’t have it: that last was a surprise. Thus far, a bust, which has me annoyed because the other bit of data collection — finding the times and places of PGR and Operation Condor actions — has proved less hard.
Bah. It is enough to drive one to purchase and smoke a good Cuban cigar. For $3.87. Which would be, in 1913 prices, 17¢. A bit more than a good five cent cigar, but not too far off. It is annoying. Unless I have some data collection luck, my next big project now looks to be French nuclear power instead of a history of violence in Mexico. Not that there’s anything wrong with either one! One is a form of energy that (absent breakthroughs) needs to be developed around the world in order to avoid catastrophe; the other threatens one of the great countries of the world.
The Revista magazine recently ran an issue about organized crime in Latin America. (Warning: the link will only work until the next issue comes out.) There is a piece by yours truly on the business strategies of Mexican cartels. (I may post a condensed version on this blog.) Morris Panner, a very smart guy, wrote another good piece that illustrates how far organized crime has sunk its tentacles into Mexican life. (The title is a bit misleading, however; the article is not about crime business models.) A third piece gives a nice short view of life in Ciudad Juárez.
For some hope that might be realized in the short-term, read this piece by Gabe Aguilera and Viri Rios about the keys to reducing violence in Mexico: the tactical recommendations are well-worth following. There is also a very nice piece warning Mexico that it might want to think twice about adopting models that worked in Colombia. The reason being that they are, you know, very different countries. (My wife had some very cogent observations about law-and-order in Colombia that I will try to remember to blog about in the near future.) And everyone needs to read more about the Zetas and Guatemala, a country that will (with Honduras) start filling headlines in a newspaper near you, or whatever insane electronic thingcrappy the young people are using.
The rest of the issue is also very good! If you have any interest in the violence spreading south of the border, go read it.
While I am here, I’d like to make a plug for Grits and Tamales, a blog about life in the deep south, published by a compa from Los Angeles. (Deep South meaning the one inside the United States, not Tierra del Fuego.) I know this blog has Canadian readers. I love you all and your country, but trust me, Prince Edward Island to Brooklyn has nothing on East L.A. to Montgomery, Alabama. Recommended. Especially as someone who has spent the past week gorging on tacos al pastor, enchiladas con mole, cochinita pibil, chilaquiles (verdes and rojos!), caldo tlalpeño, cebollitas, and all the other good stuff that is pretty much impossible to get outside of southern California, a few parts of Texas (Tex-Mex is awesome, and eaten by most Mexican-Americans in the state, but it is not Mexican food), and that truly awful taquería on East 117th Street and First Avenue in the old neighborhood down the block from Patsy’s.
(Side note: the miracle of Google tells me that Eric Asimov reviewed la crapola taquería for the Times. Which has gotta say something about the pathetically small number of taquerías in NYC.)
Anyway, regardless of the review, it is a bad taquería. But is bad in the way that lousy taquerías in Mexico City are bad, and thus I highly recommend it should you find yourself in Manhattan jonesing legitimate Mexican street food. Californian and Mexican readers take note. If, however, you should find yourself with the same jones, but be looking for something more upscale, I give this place a conditional recommendation. Why conditional? Well, my dearly-departed ma knew the owners, and we used to eat there all the time, and it was excellent. But ... I have not been there since 1988. So you pays your money and you takes your chances.
Oh, and since I have friends from the Deep South who still harbor suspicions about us effete academic liberal not-quite-white folk from the coasts, lemme give you this post from Grits and Tamales. God bless you Al Pacino, another boy from the old neighborhood.