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The Young People

I am honored that Elena Poniatowska has given me permission to translate and print an article she wrote for the Mexico City newspaper “La Jornada.”

You may or may not know that Elena Poniatowska is Mexico’s premier writer and journalist. She has won countless national and international awards but she claims her greatest joy is her family. On her 80th birthday she was asked if she would keep writing, “Oh yes, I have to…” she said,” I want to dedicate a book to each of my grandchildren!”

 Elena is the author of “Massacre in Mexico”, the chronicle that gave voice to the victims of the 1968 tragedy at Tlatelolco. She loves Mexico and says that the spontaneous student movement, begun on May 11,th  has filled her with new hope and energy.

 She wrote this article: “The Young People” for all the #Yo soy 132 supporters – those who are young and those who are young at heart.

 ¡Viva México!



One Sunday, fifty years ago, I went to Los Remedios with my son Mane and the engraver Alberto Beltran. We had to climb over a small hill and I could see that for 5 year old Mane, this required a great effort. I stretched out my hand. “Leave him alone, he has to learn to do it on his own,” said Alberto Beltran. At the time I worried that my son would fall. I didn’t get it then, but now I understand and I am thankful.

I am telling this little story because of the student movement that began on May 11th with  jeering, whistling and yelling aimed at the PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.

This movement has released the spirit of Mexican people, and for this very reason, it is important that we not take advantage of the young people. They must not be used, and what they had the ability to start – all on their own, without help from any political party or figurehead, must not be taken away from them.

The #Yo soy 132 movement has already won some victories:

  • They have been heard throughout the country and no one has shut them down.
  • They have forced the national television stations to comply with Article 62 of the Federal Radio & Television laws and commit to broadcasting the second presidential debate.
  • The students have obliged the Secretariat of State and Immigration to remove the barricades that impeded public access.
  • They have demanded that Televisa and TV Azteca answer their questions.
  • Their actions caused Enrique Peña Nieto to declare that he will not speak at any more universities.
  • The students have asked for political charges to be leveled against Calderon, Peña Nieto and Elba Ester Gordillo.
  • But perhaps in the long run, their greatest achievement will have been to unite the private and public university students.

Working class guys from the public high schools and stylish girls from exclusive Ibero are all # 132.

The young people have put our election in the world’s eyes. Now we are seen as more than news about the drug wars. The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc. are all watching Mexico’s youth.

The letter written by the Rector of the Ibero, José Morales Orozco, stipulates that he will protect his students because they are free, intelligent beings.

At conferences I am commonly asked about the differences between the young people of 1968 and those of today. I perpetually answer that youth is always the same. Now they have shown that this is true.

Today’s students, like those of ’68 are willing to stand up for Mexico, and they don’t need anyone to tell them how to do so.

PS: I am doubly pleased to print this article today because it is my 400th post. I did not plan it this way, it just happened… one of México’s lovely serendipitous surprises.


Filed under Guest Bloggers, Vida Latina, Writing

Neophytes on the road to Yucatan

Today we have a guest blogger. Greer Lavery  and his wife Janetta spend their winters in Yucatan. He has written a story about the drive from Ontario to Yucatan. I wonder how many readers of Writing From Merida have made this trip? And I have to ask if your experience included all the Laverys did?


In 2005, after four years of flying to Yucatán, and having seen many Canadian license plates in Progreso, Chicxulub and Mérida, we decided to drive from Ontario to Progreso hoping to see a good deal of rural Mexico along the way.

We arrived in McAllen, Texas late in the afternoon, planning to get an early start the next morning to cross into Reynosa, pick up our tourist visas and vehicle permit and begin our tour of Mexico. The first day’s destination was Tampico, about 400 km along an all-paved road with a few small towns and villages along the route. With cautious, sight-seeing driving we estimated we should be in Tampico by early afternoon, giving us plenty of time to find accommodation for the night; we had been strongly advised not to drive in Mexico after dark.

Upon arriving at the Immigration office shortly after 7am, we found that a caravan of eleven motor homes, each with multiple occupants, had arrived at the office before us, so we did not get on the road until late morning. We drove through areas of vegetable crops, orange groves, banana plantations, coconut groves and beautiful scenery. The long stretches of straight road shown on the map turned out to have MANY pueblos all along the route, each with a dozen or so topes, slowing travel to a crawl. The reduced speed did allow us to have a leisurely observance of life in the villages and towns so we did not mind the slow pace. We went along miles of road with no road signs, no signs of habitation and when we did come upon a road sign, the highway number did not match the number on the map. Villages were unnamed. The road was paved virtually all the way but it was also full of potholes, some large, some medium, and huge ruts in places where the asphalt had softened and heaved in the heat.The road was heavily populated with huge doble-semi-remolques. These trucks would creep through the villages and speed up on the straight stretches making passing risky on the treacherous roads. A pleasing revelation however, was that when passing was possible, the truckers would pull halfway onto the shoulder and give a signal to indicate that it was safe to pass. An enlightened and significant improvement over the attitude of truckers at home!!

It was dusk when we finally arrived at the outskirts of Tampico and began looking anxiously for a decent place to stay. A large MOTEL sign brought a sigh of relief and we drove into an inner row of units through a staggered pair of walls which blocked the view of the units from the street. A receptionist came out to greet us and directed us to drive into the garage of one of the units. The garage door was closed behind us and we entered the unit through a door inside the garage. This was the only door to the unit and there were no windows visible in the main room. The room was neat, clean, nicely furnished and looked very welcoming to two weary travelers. I asked about meals (they could be ordered from the front desk and would be brought to the room) and I enquired as well about the nightly room rate. At this point things began to go awry as I could not make sense of what the receptionist was saying. While not fluent in Spanish I could usually understand a simple accommodation conversation and make myself understood as well. The problem seemed to be on the length of stay. The motel girl kept looking at me quizzically each time I mentioned an overnite stay. She didn’t seem to have the same reservations once she looked at my gorgeous wife Janetta though. (At the time I thought it was my Spanish).

After a few minutes of getting nowhere we paused while Janetta went to look at the posted room rates on the door and I took a closer look around the room. She realized that the room was for rent by the hour and I noticed that the walls of the room were covered in mirrors. We both realized at the same moment the type of establishment we had blundered into and that was that. Janetta couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Personally, I was somewhat intrigued but to no avail. Out we went, back to the car and off into the dark Mexican night. We ended up at the Fiesta Inn, 1,450 pesos per nite and to add insult to injury, our bank card was stolen from our room while we were out to dinner.

Describing our experience once we got to Progreso generated quite a few chuckles. My good friend Joe from North Bay took great delight in introducing me to new people at our bridge table: “This is Greer. He’s an authority on Mexican hot sheet-motels.” Usually this just brought me a wary, uncertain glance but one sweet little old lady came back immediately with a reply I still remember: “Oh? Is he an owner or a user?”

We have since seen these motels in just about every city we’ve visited in Mexico – they seem to be a common and accepted part of Mexican culture.  Some fellow travelers have said that they have stayed in one on their drive to / from home. And why not? They’re clean, very secure, inexpensive, have meal delivery and, for those that are so inclined, all those mirrors!


Filed under Guest Bloggers

Deanna is our guest today…

My friend Deanna Lagroix is today’s  Guest Blogger. As a teacher, she wrote many class plans and memos… over the years, she wrote letters to friends and she kept a journal. Now Deanna is writing stories about her well-lived life… she shares this one with us today:

Grandma’s Lamp

It was a nightly ritual. Grandma was the last one to leave the kitchen at the end of the day. She would have cleaned off the table after making and serving supper for “the men” who’d come in from finishing the evening chores at the barn. Grandpa and my two unmarried uncles would carry in an armload of wood for the wood box, wash up and come to table. Conversation was limited and they would then retire to read or doze on the sofa while Grandma washed the dishes, reset the table and made the preparations for the early-morning breakfast. The small cistern attached to the large wood stove was topped up with water that was kept heated for all the household needs and, of necessity, it was usually Grandma’s task to feed wood into that stove.

In the early 1950’s I lived for a year on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa and attended the rural one-room school that my mother and her siblings had attended decades earlier. As the autumn evenings turned to the darker onset of winter, the lanterns were lit to guide the men to and from the barn and Grandma would check the oil and the wicks as she lit the indoor lamps on the table and the sideboard.

When the questions about my homework were answered and the discussions over the market prices for pork or beef concluded, we all prepared to retire. Grandma would blow out the extra lamps and after one last look around she’d take up “her” lamp, make her way upstairs to the bedroom and place it on her dresser. She would remove the hairpins holding the coiled bun on the back of her head, allowing her thinning grey hair to cascade down her back, then don her flannel nightie and stretch to relax that tired body.

Back at the dresser, she’d bless herself with the holy water collected at Church and say out loud, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul” and then would turn and blow out the lamp to end her day.

I am the fortunate grandchild who inherited the lamp and it honours my home on the mantle of the fireplace. Grandma, Annie MacLean MacCulloch, died in 1957 at the age of seventy-two. I have reached that age this year and her spirit and her love live with me still.


Filed under Guest Bloggers