EPN finally gets to the bottom of something

EPN took to twitter to clear up a big controversy. Unfortunately, it was about whether he knows how to put on a pair of socks!

While we here at CG applaud this as progress, we wonder if EPN might not be better served clearing up more important issues like say, where is Chapo Guzman, or killed those 43 students, or why so many journalists are still dying, or why his wife has a mansion given to her by a big government contractor.

Well at least we all know now that EPN knows the difference between his toes and his heel. He’s still working on distinguishing his butt from a hole in the ground though.

Who’s Killin’ Who?

“Mexico is killing U.S. on trade,”

“They’re killing us at the border and they’re killing us on jobs and trade. FIGHT!”

~ D. Trump

Here’s the data:

mex trade

Looks like a 500% plus increase in total trade, a merchandise trade deficit of around $50 billion and US merchandise exports of around $240 billion.

There is also a $10 – 15 billion US trade surplus in services to consider.

For context, The US merchandise trade deficit with China was $343 billion in 2014 and US exports to China were $123.6 billion.

The US exports twice as much to Mexico as it does to China and its merchandise trade deficit with Mexico is around 6.5 times smaller than its deficit with China.

It is also true that a lot of US trade with Mexico come from an international production process as can be seen below:

Untitled 2

The US imports Motor Vehicles and their parts, oil and gas, computer equipment and audio-visual equipment from Mexico while it exports Motor Vehicle parts, Petroleum products computer equipment and electronic components to Mexico.

****Let us pause for a moment of silence to remember the late, lamented Heckscher-Ohlin theory of trade******

It would be far more accurate to say that US drug laws are killing Mexico than to say that any or everything that Mexico may be doing is hurting the US.

Una de Sangre por una de Lluvia

Amazing video by Vice about the modern version of sacrificing to Tlaloc for a good rainy season.


Besides the rituals, the video also gives a look at life in rural southern Mexico. Calda de cabeza. A “sheriff” who only speaks in boldface lies, heavy drinking……

Hey, I wonder if this would work in California?

Houston, tenemos un problema!

Reuters published an article titled “Mexican ruling party insiders fear embattled president a liability.”  In what has to be the best distillation of the PRI ever printed, PRI lawmaker Francisco Arroyo, deputy speaker of the lower house, states:

“We have a serious problem perception-wise nationally about levels of government corruption.”

Indeed, from the PRI’s perspective, the problem isn’t that there is massive corruption, but rather that the public is on to them!  I wonder if Congressman Arroyo knew just how telling that statement was.

Gender Ambiguity in a Gender-Marked Language

The NY Times published an interesting piece yesterday called “Redefining Gender in Mexico City.”  Micah, a transgender advocate, spoke to the author about the linguistic difficulties of being transgender in a gender-marked language.  Here’s an interesting bit;

“In Spanish there is no gender-neutral pronoun. Whenever you speak, you have to give yourself a gender. Estoy cansado. Estoy cansada. It’s very difficult to say, “I’m tired” without gender. You have to say, “I have tiredness.” Tengo cansancio.Sometimes I wouldn’t say the ends of words. I’d say, “Estoy cansad. … ” Or instead of using cansado or cansada, I’d say, “Estoy muy tired.”

The article goes on to detail just how forward thinking Mexico City has become (unlike the rest of the country) when it comes to gender issues.  Micah transitioned from female to male a couple of years ago and was able to officially change his gender after going through a number of hoops.  Now, he notes:

“The legal proc­ess I went through in Mexico City, over a year with lawyers and doctors, is obsolete today. Changing your gender on your birth certificate is just an administrative matter now. That’s the new law that passed last year.”

Nice to hear some good news coming from the DF!

Murakami meets Mexican buses

Thanks to Elinor Comlay (@ElinorComlay), I learned about a very cool free e-book on the folkloric history of Mexican buses.  Here is the link and it is well worth checking out, just for the incredible photos, if nothing else.  The project is called Subale Hay Lugares, roughly translated as, Climb In, There are Places (we’ll see or go).

Here is the description of the project in Spanish.  It reminds me a lot of a Haruki Murakami novel, which is high praise:

La cultura que gira en torno al transporte público en México es muy amplia. Acercarse a la cultura estética de las diferentes rutas que surcan las calles de las ciudades mexicanas es adentrarse profundamente en la psique del mexicano. Todo es lo mismo, pero diferente. El lenguaje, por ejemplo, es definitivamente críptico. Aunque se utilicen las mismas palabras, los significados están trastocados. El mundo de los camiones y los peseros está aquí, convive con el nuestro, pero es otro.

It’s hard for me to translate it into English without losing a lot of the poetry.  Here are a couple of my favorite Murakami-like parts:

To explore the aesthetic culture of the different routes that cross the streets of Mexican cities is to delve deep into the Mexican psyche. Everything is the same, but different. Language, for example, is definitely cryptic. Although the same words are used, the meanings are disrupted. The world of trucks and buses is here, coexists with ours, but it is another.

Here are a couple great photos from the project:




EPN, or at least his hair, is unflappable

As more corruption allegations arise, El Presidente seems relatively unruffled, or at least his hair does.  In a very funny, and very important, article, Rafa Fernandez de Castro asks “How does the Mexican president get his hair to look so flawless?

Rafa notes that EPN has lego hair; that is, hair that apparently adheres to the US postal service creed (“neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”).  Here is the lego version:


The infamous cowlick became a motif when EPN was running for president.  Here are some of his supporters demonstrating their follicular affinity:


As opposition has mounted to his presidency, the famous coif is now being used against him:


The public has also taken to social media to debate how he maintains such perfectly coiffed hair.  Responding to a photo of EPN finishing a race, one tweeter wrote: “The cowlick is INTACT [sic] please let us know what gel he uses.

Others hypothesize that he has an acrylic helmet, a wig, or perhaps just glues his hair in place.  I imagine him having a whole row of acrylic helmets on a shelf, just in case.  If only he spent half as much time on issues like murdered students, Mexico might be doing a lot better from a human rights perspective.

Strengthening property rights is not a good electoral strategy for old, corrupt parties

Somehow I missed a piece in the JDE in September by Alain de Janvrya, Marco Gonzalez-Navarrob, and Elisabeth Sadoulet.  It’s called “Are land reforms granting complete property rights politically risky? Electoral outcomes of Mexico’s certification program” and it finds some really interesting results about property rights and voting patterns in Mexico.  Here is the abstract:

What is the impact on voting behavior of strengthening property rights over agricultural land? To answer this question, we use the 14-year nationwide rollout of Mexico’s land certification program (Procede) and match affected communities (ejidos) before and after the change in property rights with voting outcomes in corresponding electoral sections across six federal election cycles. We find that, in accordance with the investor class theory, granting complete property rights induced a conservative shift toward the pro-market party equal to 6.8 percent of its average share of votes over the period. This shift was strongest where vested interests created larger expected benefits from market-oriented policies as opposed to public-transfer policies. We also find that beneficiaries failed to reciprocate through votes for the benefactor party. We conclude that, in the Mexican experience, engaging in a land reform that strengthened individual property rights over agricultural land was politically advantageous for the right-wing party.

While it’s not surprising that strengthening property rights would increase support for market policies, it is encouraging.

One of the authors, Alain de Janvry, is giving a talk at Berkeley in March that sounds really interesting–which I could go.  The title is “Mexico’s Second Land Reform: Economic, Social, and Political Implications” and here are the details if you will be in the area.

Forget the Big Mac Index, check out the Quesadilla Index!

I just finished a tremendously funny book called Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos. The English translation by Rosalind Harvey is excellent, but the book was so good that I’m going to buy the Spanish version and read it next.


One of the best parts of the book was the way in which the narrator used the quality of his family’s quesadillas to the Mexican national economy.  Here is a great quote from p. 9 of the paperback edition:

“We entered a phase of quesadilla rationing that led to the political radicalisation of every member of my family. We were all well aware of the roller coaster that was the national economy due to the fluctuating thickness of the quesadillas my mother served at home. We’d even invented categories – inflationary quesadillas, normal quesadillas, devaluation quesadillas and poor man’s quesadillas – listed in order of greatest affluence to greatest parsimony.

The inflationary quesadillas were thick in order to use up the cheese that my mother had bought in a state of panic at the announcement of a new rise in the price of food and the genuine risk that her supermarket bill would go from billions to trillions of pesos. The normal quesadillas were the ones we would have eaten every day if we lived in a normal country – but if we had been living in a normal country we wouldn’t have been eating quesadillas and so we also called them impossible quesadillas.

Devaluation quesadillas became less substantial for psychological rather than economic reasons – they were the quesadillas of chronic national depression – and were the most common in my parents’ house. Finally you had the poor man’s quesadillas, in which the presence of cheese was literary: you opened one up and instead of adding melted cheese my mother had written the word ‘cheese’ on the surface of the tortilla. We were yet to experience the horror of a total absence of quesadillas.

I think I’m going to start using this novel in my Mexican Economic Development class! 

At least some Mexican dogs have gone to heaven

or at least they might think so thanks to the good word done by canine advocates in Mexico.  I came across an article that talked about the canine companions that join the huge pilgrimage to Mexico’s most important basilica on December 12th. Apparently more than 7 million pilgrims visited La Villa this year and they were accompanied by hundreds of dogs.  The dogs are looking for company and food, while the pilgrims welcome the dogs as company and protection (thankfully, not food!).  When all the people disperse though, the dogs are left hanging around the basilica.  Typically, the authorities would be called and the dogs rounded up and euthanized.

Canine advocacy groups like Mundo Patitas (Little Paws World) is trying to put an end to that generally by educating Mexicans about the proper care of dogs and, in particular, saving the dog companions of the pilgrims.  As one member notes, “Catholic charity generally doesn’t extend to animals. Most Mexicans don’t see dogs as living beings. They either consider them objects or a nuisance. We’re here not just to save the dogs, but also to make people conscious of how to treat them.”  That was pretty much how dogs were treated when we lived in Mexico more than 15 years ago and it sounds like things are changing, but sadly very slowly.  Here is one of the sweet photos from the article; check the article for more of the same: