Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Across the Border

Here we have a blog written by professionals. This is a blog sponsored by the Express News and Channel 5 in San Antonio, Texas. The blog is written by a collection of journalists deep into Mexico (Monterrey, Mexico City, etc.) and along the border. It's reporters writing about Mexico for an interested U.S. audience.

Knowing that the blog was written by journalists, I had high hopes as I started reading the posts. I wouldn't say my hopes were dashed, exactly. Let's just say they were readjusted.

I was expecting some good in-depth writing on subjects that matter to people on both sides of the border. Alas, this does not seem to be the content of this particular blog. Instead, the posts seem to be short stories that are either original reporting or translations (and summations) of articles written elsewhere in Spanish. This is not a bad thing... in fact, it's rather a good thing.

One of the writers, Dane Schiller, appears to live in and report on what's happening in Mexico City. Because this is a blog, the stories are less formal than you might read elsewhere. And they are opinion, hearsay, gestalt and zeitgeist type of stories. Things that work on a blog but not in a newspaper. So there is a story about how people are being required or paid to camp out in support of Lopez Obrador. Or what it was like watching the movie about the World Trade disaster inside an auditorium in Mexico City's World Trade Center. Today's story details how the clash in Oaxaca is heating up and talks about some of the political implications of how the government might respond.

What I realized reading this blog is that probably these reporters are paid to write this blog. It has the feeling of work to me. Well, and of course it comes under the umbrella of the company they work for, so they can't be as free to express themselves as if this was a personal blog. Still, some of the information and some of the little slice-of-life articles are interesting. The reporting is timely, if not in depth, and does give me a small but clear window into the important events that people are talking about in Mexico.

So I plan to read it for that: short, timely stories about main events. For more indepth, personal and thoughtful articles about what is going on in Mexico, I will probably look elsewhere.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Family Goes to Merida

Sometimes these websites that I review get really close to home. In fact, this one emerges from a house about a block and a half from my home! This family of five comes from Scottsdale, AZ and has decided to try living in Merida for two months. They are jumping into this new culture with a lot of enthusiasm and a digital camera. Their website has a blog which has been chronicling their experiences since before they left.

What I love about this blog is that it really is a blow-by-blow account of the strangeness of moving straight from the States to the Yucatan. The woman who writes it is going through so many of the same things that we went through five years ago when we first moved here. And of course, Merida is my home now and doesn't seem as strange anymore. So the bathroom with a shower in the cocina economica, the aisle of yogurt at WalMart or the water system that seems to have a mind of its own are just de rigeur now. But reading this blog reminds me of what life was like for us when we first moved.

Another interesting thread in this blog is something that you don't see talked about much in the english-speaking blogosphere about Mexico: racism. The writer is white, writer's husband is black and she has three sons of mixed race. They have experienced some racist remarks on the streets here, which doesn't surprise me. I don't think people here are racist... I think they are ignorant. There is not a very large black population in Merida so most people here, I'm guessing, have little or no preconceived ideas about black people. There is a large gay population, but little or no prejudice against gays. In other words, the Yucatecan people aren't intrinsically prejudiced against people who are somehow different. In fact, it seems to us to be one of the most tolerant places we have ever been in the world.

But what the Yucatan and Mexico do have is a class system that is hundreds of years old where the whiter you are, the richer and more important you are. "Indios" are indigenous Indians (Mayans, Nahuatls, etc.) and they have darker skin. If there is prejudice here, it's against the indigenous people, whose skin is darker to begin with and darkened by their labor in the sun. Add on top of that the growing influence of television and movies as the US culture infiltrates its way into the heads of young Mexicans... and well, you have an interesting concoction. I, for one, will be watching this blog to see if there are any other insights into this situation as this family gets more acclimated to Merida and the surroundings.

And then of course, there is the big "reality show" question here: will the Smith Family like Merida enough to move here? Or will they, after two months of living like locals, decide to move home to the United States? I, for one, will be tuning in to find out. Or maybe I'll just ask them over dinner later this week...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Billie's Blog

I've known about this blog for a long time. I've even corresponded a number of times with the author. Strangely, I kept finding other blogs and websites for Mexico-in-English and not listing this one. In fact, I almost forgot I hadn't listed it! This was really quite unfair of me, frankly, because for those of you who don't already know about Billie's Blog, I was robbing you of a consistent source of enjoyable reading. Those days are over.

Lucky for all of us, blogs are online journals and the postings are cumulative. So now that you know where Billie's Blog is, you can go there and catch up on all the reading you've missed out on up to this point.

Billie blogs about everything: her photography (which is a very serious pasttime for her...MUCH more than a hobby!), Spanish lessons, eating out, the San Miguel rapist, her grandchildren and anything else that she feels like, dammit! This is a very personal blog written by a woman who has recently sold her home in Houston and gone to live with her husband in San Miguel Allende. She writes well and she takes lovely photos. Her powers of observation that make her a good photographer make her an interesting blogger.

So even though Billie's blog is about Mexico (mostly), you will also find hidden gems like a personal list of restaurant reviews in Houston or a rundown (and links) of her photography friends. You'll find her reminiscences about her children or her ancestors scattered in amongst musings about digital photography and taking photos in Mexico.

This blog is sure to be an enjoyable read for fellow photographers. But I'm sure it will also have a lot to give to those of you living in or moving to or dreaming of Mexico. Don't waste another minute... go catch up on Billie's Blog.