Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
At least 27 killed by ‘disastrous’ Hurricane Otis, damage seen in billions
(Reuters) – Hurricane Otis claimed the lives of at least 27 people, Mexico’s government said on Thursday after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the country hammered the beach resort of Acapulco, causing damage seen running into billions of dollars.
Otis, which struck Mexico Wednesday as a Category 5 storm, flooded streets, ripped roofs off homes and hotels, submerged cars and cut communications, road and air access, leaving a trail of wreckage across Acapulco, a city of nearly 900,000.
Mexico’s Sheinbaum favorite to win presidential nomination, polls show
(Reuters) – Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum held a comfortable advantage in the race to be the leftist ruling party’s 2024 presidential nominee, according to opinion polls published on Tuesday, the eve of the announcement of the winner.
Mexico will probably get its first female president next year
(The Economist) Barring any big surprises, two women will compete to be Mexico’s president in the election next year. On September 3rd Xóchitl Gálvez, a 60-year-old senator, was named the candidate for an alliance among three opposition parties: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action Party (PAN) and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). On September 6th Morena, the party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will almost certainly select Claudia Sheinbaum, the 61-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, as its candidate.
Mexican president picks veteran diplomat to be next foreign minister
(AP) — Mexico’s president on Tuesday named Alicia Bárcena, the country’s current ambassador to Chile, as the next foreign relations secretary, replacing Marcelo Ebrard who resigned to pursue the presidential nomination.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador noted the solid background of the Harvard-educated Bárcena, who served for almost 14 years as executive secretary of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. She has been Mexico’s ambassador to Chile since September.
Mexico’s governing party to decide its presidential nomination by polling
(AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s governing Morena party decided Sunday that a series of five polls over the summer will decide the party’s nomination for the June 2024 presidential election.
All of the four Morena contenders will have to resign their government posts by Friday, including Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who is considered the frontrunner. That is meant to prevent primary candidates from using their posts to gain an unfair advantage. Each can campaign throughout the summer.
The party is desperate to avoid splits and accusations of manipulated polls that have marked past primary races in Morena. The four contenders joined hands and chanted “Unity! Unity! Unity!” after the announcement.
Mexico’s top diplomat, Marcelo Ebrard, has already said he will resign this week. Rounding out the field is Sen. Ricardo Monreal and Interior Secretary Adán López, who is no relation to the president.
Mexico president’s ruling party ousts once-dominant party in most populous state
the PRI is now a shadow of the old days when it ruled Mexico with a combination of hand-out programs and corruption.
(AP) — The ruling party of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the governorship of the country’s most populous state, dealing a life-threatening blow to the old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Part y — or PRI — which had governed the State of Mexico without interruption for nearly a century.
With over 99% of precincts counted in a preliminary report, electoral authorities said Monday that Morena’s Delfina Gómez won 52.7% of votes in the State of Mexico — which surrounds Mexico City on three sides — to 44.3% for the PRI’s Alejandra del Moral.
Del Moral later gave a concession speech acknowledging her defeat.
The result was a new low for the PRI, which held Mexico’s presidency uninterrupted for 71 years until losing power in 2000 elections; the party had governed the State of Mexico and its 17 million inhabitants for 94 years until its loss Sunday.
Mexico too dangerous for spring break, Texas officials say
“Based on the volatile nature of cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we are urging individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time.”
It comes after four Americans were kidnapped shortly after crossing the border last week. Two of them were murdered, while two were released unharmed.
Three American women who went to Mexico to sell clothes at a market have been missing for more than two weeks.
“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat to anyone who crosses into Mexico right now,” said DPS director Steven McCraw.
Ian Bremmer: Advantage Mexico
In most media, today’s Mexico conjures images of violent drug cartels and other organized crime groups, trouble at the US border, or large-scale protests led by an opposition that accuses the country’s president of a power grab that threatens democracy.
Mexico has its share of problems. But today, I want to give you three reasons for optimism that, politically and economically, Mexico is strong and getting stronger.
Mexico’s exports are surging. The country’s consumer confidence is close to its highest point in a generation. Add the reality is that the war in Ukraine has put strong upward pressure on global energy prices, boosting Mexico’s oil revenue. As the war grinds on, that advantage is likely to continue.
But the factor that matters most for coming years is souring US sentiment on relations with China. The Biden administration, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, and many US governors are pushing for a significant national security and strategic decoupling from China and Chinese companies. US businesses are increasingly less confident they can navigate complicated US-China politics, abrupt changes inside China like the 180-degree turn on COVID policy, and other factors to continue to do profitable business in China.
Mexico gives account of violence after ‘Chapo’ son nabbed
(AP) — The operation to detain Ovidio Guzman, the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, unleashed firefights that turned the northern city of Culiacan into a war zone, authorities said Friday.
In a blow-by-blow description of the battles Thursday that killed 10 military personnel and 19 suspected members of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said cartel gunmen opened fire on troops with a half-dozen .50-caliber machine guns.
… The gunmen also shot up airport buildings in a bid to prevent authorities from flying the captured cartel boss out of the city. But, Sandoval said, authorities anticipating the resistance had loaded Ovidio Guzman onto a military helicopter to fly him back to Mexico City.
The Mexican administration bagged the high-profile cartel figure days before hosting U.S. President Joe Biden.
Samuel González, who founded Mexico’s special prosecutor’s office for organized crime in the 1990s, said Guzmán’s capture was a “gift” ahead of Biden’s visit. The Mexican government “is working to have a calm visit,” he said.
Mexican city erupts in violence, residents ordered to stay indoors after drug cartel leader’s arrest
Multiple airports in Sinaloa state are closed after an Aeromexico flight was reportedly hit by gunfire
(CBC) Mexican authorities on Thursday confirmed the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, a 32-year-old senior member of the Sinaloa Cartel and a son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
How violence against journalists has intensified in Mexico
(The Current) Regina Martinez was a fierce investigative journalist in Mexico. The stories she covered pulled back the curtain on vast networks of corruption. Regina Martinez was killed because of her work, adding to a growing list of journalists murdered in Mexico.
Since her death, the violence against journalists in Mexico has only intensified. This year alone, 19 have been killed, setting a deadly new record. Katherine Corcoran was the Associate Press Bureau chief in Mexico when Regina Martinez was killed. Her investigation into the killing is the subject of her new book, In the Mouth of the Wolf: A Murder, A Cover Up and the True Cost of Silencing the Press.
Bret Stephens: Will Mexico Be the Next Venezuela?
(NYT) AMLO isn’t just another version of Trump. He’s worse, thanks to being a more effective demagogue and bureaucratic operator.
That was again made clear when Mexicans took to the streets on Nov. 13 in demonstrations against AMLO’s efforts to gut the National Electoral Institute, known by its Spanish acronym, INE. Over three decades, the state-funded but independent public agency (previously called the Federal Electoral Institute) has been vital to Mexico’s transition from one-party rule to a competitive democracy in which incumbent parties routinely lose elections — and accept the results.
AMLO is a product of the old ruling party, the P.R.I., which dominated nearly every aspect of Mexican political life from the late 1920s to the 1990s. Ideologically, the party was split between two wings: modernizing technocrats versus statist nationalists. But the party was united in its devotion to patronage, repression, corruption and, above all, presidential control as a means of perpetuating its hold on power.
AMLO may have belonged to the statist wing, but his ideas about governance are straight out of the old P.R.I. playbook, only this time in favor of his own Morena party. “His thrust all along has been to recreate the 1970s: an overpowering presidency with no counterweights,” Luis Rubio, one of Mexico’s leading thinkers, wrote me on Monday. “He has thus gone on to undermine, eliminate or neutralize a whole network of entities meant to become checks on presidential power.” That includes the Supreme Court, the country’s regulatory agencies and Mexico’s human rights commission.
6 of the 43 missing Mexican students were turned over to the army, official says
(NPR) Six of the 43 college students “disappeared” in 2014 were allegedly kept alive in a warehouse for days then turned over to the local army commander who ordered them killed, the Mexican government official leading a Truth Commission said Friday.
Interior Undersecretary Alejandro Encinas made the shocking revelation directly tying the military to one of Mexico’s worst human rights scandals, and it came with little fanfare as he made a lengthy defense of the commission’s report released a week earlier.
Arrest of cartel leaders leads to shootouts, burning of vehicles in 2 Mexican states
U.S. consulate in Guadalajara issues alert over violence; AMLO says soldiers ran into high-level meeting of two criminal organizations
…the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel for the past three years has been fighting local gangs in Guanajuato, a state in Central Mexico on the way to highways leading to drug corridors in South Texas.
Who Was ‘El Padrino,’ Godfather to Drug Cartel? Mexico’s Defense Chief, U.S. Says
Drug enforcement agents had long tried to solve the mystery of “El Padrino,” a shadowy, powerful force. They’ve now identified him as Salvador Cienfuegos, Mexico’s defense chief from 2012 to 2018.
Mexico’s criminal brazenness matters
(Brookings) Mexico’s out-of-control criminal market remains not only terribly violent; the violence is once again becoming extraordinarily brazen. The ostentatiousness of Mexico’s criminal groups not only exposes its collapsed law enforcement capacity; it exacerbates impunity. The Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration finally needs to recognize how frail rule of law is in Mexico and to start taking meaningful actions against Mexican criminal groups.
Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence
The Mexican federal authorities captured José Antonio Yépez, the criminal boss known as El Marro, on Sunday, landing a major blow against a cartel whose struggle for control helped spur record violence in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. After his arrest in an early-morning raid, low-resolution photographs of his capture were released by law enforcement agencies eager to highlight the latest success in their campaign against organized crime. What is less clear is whether Mr. Yépez’s imprisonment will make any meaningful difference in the violence that has subsumed Mexico — or in the prevalence of organized crime more broadly. “This is basically a short-lived P.R. victory, but it doesn’t provide a solution,” said Falko Ernst, a Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group. “The big worry is that there is no backing in terms of a more cohesive security strategy.”
Mexican Radio Journalist Murdered in Ciudad Juárez
(Democracy Now!) In Mexico, a radio broadcaster was shot to death Tuesday afternoon outside her home in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. She was known as Bárbara Greco on air. The 37-year-old had recently spoken out on violence against women and children in Mexico in response to the recent killing of a 7-year-old girl in Mexico City. Her friends and colleagues reported that her real name was Teresa Aracely Alcocer. Last December, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Mexico had suffered the second-highest number of journalist killings in 2019, after Syria
‘This is our everyday Mexico’: Brutal murders of woman and girl fuel mass protests
More than 1,000 women and girls were killed in Mexico last year, according to the government’s records — a 10 per cent increase from 2018.
(CBC) The gruesome murders of a woman and a young girl have pushed Mexicans into the streets, with protesters criticizing the government for not doing enough to prevent and punish violence against women.
Ingrid Escamilla, a 25-year-old woman, was stabbed to death late last week. Police released photos of her mutilated body and they were published by local newspapers. Days later, seven-year-old Fatima Aldrighetti was abducted from school. Her remains were later found stuffed in a garbage bag.
“This is our everyday Mexico,” said Erika Yamada, one of the organizers of this week’s protests and member of the feminist group Colectiva Digna Hijas.
“Yesterday a baby was killed, and another girl in Puebla was murdered just like Fatima…. It happens all the time.”
Amid the recent surge in protests, Mexico’s lawmakers in lower Congress approved a reform that would increase the prison sentence from 60 years to 65 — for femicide, which has a specific definition in the Mexican justice system.
“Femicide is killing a woman for gender-based reasons, for being a woman. And normally the victim shows signs of sexual violence, strangling, torture, burning, lacerations,” Yamada explained. “And normally the bodies are exposed, naked or in public places.”
Cities using the SDGs to reduce urban violence
(Brookings) … Mexico City is …combining improved law enforcement with programs to address the root causes of violence. Large investments and dedicated efforts are expanding access to education, sports, decent jobs, cultural activities, and social infrastructure in historically marginalized neighborhoods especially prone to youth violence. In 2019, 150 community centers—part of an initiative called PILARES—offer academic support, economic autonomy, and cultural engagement, with a target of expanding to 300 by 2020. These expanded opportunities for young people complement efforts to address high levels of impunity, fight corruption, invest in community policing,
As Troubles Grow, Mexicans Keep the Faith With Their President
One year into his term, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador faces a stagnant economy and spiraling violence, but Mexicans still place their hopes in him.
A Mexican cartel gun battle near the Texas border leaves 21 dead
(Vox) The attack comes days after President Trump announced he wants to label Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
Armed gunmen stormed Villa Union, a town near the Texas border with Coahuila state, on Saturday and attacked local government offices, including that of the mayor. Security forces responded, and 10 gunmen and four policemen were killed during the resulting shootout in the village. Seven additional cartel members were killed by security forces after the attackers fled.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it clear that he will not allow foreign intervention, and has offered to increase cooperation with the US on fighting drug gangs instead, according to Al Jazeera. His government already works with the US intelligence community and drug and law enforcement officials from the State Department to combat cartel violence.
Why designating Mexican drug cartels terrorists might not be the way to fight organized crime
Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that Mexican drug cartels be designated foreign terrorist organizations is likely to be ineffective in addressing the problem of violent criminal gangs, says a former Mexican ambassador to the United States.
Arturo Sarukhan, who was Mexico’s representative in Washington from 2007 to 2013, says the idea is another way for the U.S. president to use Mexico as a political piñata and would also seriously harm bilateral relations between the two countries, impacting trade and border security.
To determine whether a group should be designated as an FTO, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism looks at its past activities and whether it is planning or has the capability to carry out future acts that threaten the security and national interest of the U.S.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was quick to reject Trump’s idea, decrying it as “interventionism.” He said Mexico would take up the issue after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, and his foreign minister would lead talks with his U.S. counterparts.
Sarukhan says Trump’s recent revival of the FTO idea seems to be a response to calls among conservatives and right wing groups to take action in the wake of the violent murder of nine members of an American Mormon family living in northern Mexico at the beginning of November
The designation has practical and symbolic power. It is illegal to provide an FTO with material support and resources, and members of such groups are barred from entering the United States.
Mexican cop involved in botched operation against ‘El Chapo’s’ son gunned down in hail of 155 bullets
(Fox news) Cristobal Castañeda Camarillo, the Secretary of Public Safety in Sinaloa, said that Eduardo N., was not directly involved in the botched arrest attempt of Guzman Lopez on Oct. 17, but that he was part of the wider antidrug security unit patrolling the region, according to El Heraldo de Mexico.
Guzman Lopez, who is wanted by U.S. authorities on drug trafficking allegations, was briefly captured by police in a house in Culiacan. But cartel gunmen ambushed the police convoy and burned road barricades in the area while Lopez was in custody. He was released and police retreated following the intense fighting. At least eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded.
The latest targeted attack came on the same day Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador again defended the officers’ retreat and subsequent release of Guzman Lopez, reiterating his belief that cartel violence cannot be fought with more violence.
Obrador’s so-called “hugs, not bullets” when dealing with the cartels has come under increasing scrutiny this week following the deaths of nine Americans – three adult women and six children – who were gunned down in Sonora state.
Since Obrador took office in December, Mexico has been on track to record more than 32,000 murders this year. In the last month alone, the country has been plagued by at least three deadly high-profile attacks – including Monday’s – at the hands of cartel members.
Killed American family may have been ‘bait’ in Mexican cartel fight: relatives
(Reuters) – The nine American women and children killed in northern Mexico were victims of a territorial dispute between an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel and a rival gang, officials said on Wednesday, and may have been used to lure one side into a firefight.
The Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels have for years been at odds over lucrative routes in the border region used to move cocaine, heroin and other narcotics into the United States. Mexico has long requested that Washington do more to control demand for drugs. Mexico has unleashed its military against cartels since 2006 but despite the arrests or killings of leading traffickers, the campaign has failed to reduce violence. In fact, it has led to more killings as criminal groups fight among themselves.
Mexico president defends release of El Chapo’s son in shootout with cartel
Government surrenders to the Sinaloa drug cartel, cedes control of state capital
Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal
By Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman
(NYT) The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.
Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.
The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was first reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.
Mr. Trump hailed the agreement anyway on Saturday, writing on Twitter: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” He thanked the president of Mexico for “working so long and hard” on a plan to reduce the surge of migration into the United States.
It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico.
Trump’s Mexico deal is victory for ‘hostage-taking’, ex-WTO head says
Pascal Lamy said Trump’s actions went against the spirit of diplomacy after Mexico agreed to expand asylum program
(The Guardian) The immigration deal imposed on Mexico by Donald Trump under the threat of punitive tariffs is a victory for “hostage-taking” over international rules, a former head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Saturday.
Late on Friday, the US and Mexico struck an accord to avert a tariff war when Mexico agreed to expand a contentious asylum program and deploy security forces to stem the flow of migrants from Central America.
Mexico made the concessions after Trump threatened to slap escalating tariffs of 5% on all Mexican goods from Monday if Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, did not do more to tighten his country’s borders.
“My reaction is it seems that hostage-taking works,” Pascal Lamy, a former director-general of the WTO, told Reuters, saying Trump’s actions went against the spirit of diplomacy.
Trump Calls Off Plan to Impose Tariffs on Mexico
(NYT) President Trump backed off his plan to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods and announced via Twitter on Friday night that the United States had reached an agreement with Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants to the southwestern border. Mr. Trump tweeted the announcement only hours after returning from Europe and following several days of intense and sometimes difficult negotiations between American and Mexican officials in Washington.
The president’s threat that he would impose potentially crippling tariffs on the United States’ largest trading partner and one of its closest allies brought both countries to the brink of an economic and diplomatic crisis — only to be yanked back from the precipice nine days later. The threat had rattled companies across North America, including automakers and agricultural firms, which have built supply chains across Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Businesses had warned that the tariffs would increase costs for American consumers, who import everything from cucumbers to refrigerators from Mexico, and prompt retaliation from the Mexican government in the form of new trade barriers that would damage the United States economy.
But the trade war ended before it began, forestalling that economic reckoning and an intraparty war that Mr. Trump had created by threatening tariffs to leverage the immigration changes he demanded. That tactic had drawn stiff protests from Republicans, including many senators, who have long opposed tariffs and worried the measure would hurt American companies and consumers.
In an unusual show of force against their own party’s president, Republican senators had threatened to try to block the tariffs if Mr. Trump moved ahead with them, and had demanded a face-to-face meeting with the president before any action.
Kenneth Rogoff: As Populists Rise, Latin America’s Economies Will Fall
In the space of a year, populists with autocratic tendencies have taken office in Mexico and Brazil, and laid the groundwork to return to power in Argentina. With the three largest economies in Latin America destined for further mismanagement, the prospects for growth in the region are dim
(Project Syndicate) Populist autocrats have enjoyed a breathtaking rise to power in countries around the world, and nowhere is the trend more pronounced than in Latin America following the elections of Mexico’s leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), and Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro.
AMLO, like the charismatic Chávez two decades ago, was swept into office last year on the promise that he would improve the lives of ordinary people. One of his first official acts was to abort construction of a desperately needed new airport in Mexico City – even though the project was already 30% complete – on the grounds that airlines are for the rich. He then launched a new airport project in an impractical, mountainous location farther away, where it stands even less chance of being finished.Though AMLO campaigned on a promise to end corruption, his government has eschewed competitive bidding for more than 70% of the contracts it has awarded. Like Trump, he dismisses media critics as “fake news,” and warns reporters to “behave well,” or “you know what will happen to you.” Still, global investors are encouraged by the fact that AMLO has left the central bank alone, at least so far.
We get Cinco de Mayo wrong. But we’re not wrong to celebrate it.
The event commemorated on this holiday was a triumph of Mexican spirit and courage. For us, though, it just might have saved our nation.
When the future of the United States was threatened by the secession of 11 Southern states in 1860-1861, Confederate strategists looked for help in two directions. One was Europe; the other was Mexico. Europe’s textile mills ran on Southern cotton. By cutting off the supply with an embargo, the rebels hoped to force France and Britain to recognize Southern independence. Mexico, meanwhile, was a potential ally — or maybe even a future member of the new Confederacy.
As 1861 came to an end, only the French remained, camped on the Gulf Coast. French Emperor Napoleon III , nephew of the famous general, rued his uncle’s decision to sell French holdings in North America to Thomas Jefferson more than 50 years earlier. He decided to topple the Mexican government and reestablish Parisian power in the Americas.
So in the spring of 1862, the French began marching toward Mexico City, with the Confederate rebels cheering them on. After conquering Mexico, the French would be perfectly positioned to ally with the South and tip the balance of the Civil War.
Had a triumphant French army been raising the flag in Mexico City that summer, it might have made all the difference. The wavering Napoleon might have been emboldened to recognize the Confederacy, pulling the British along with him. Instead, the French army was licking its wounds, mangled by a smaller force of Mexican irregulars, and the emperor was momentarily chastened. Though France managed to topple the Mexican government the following year, its brief reign there came too late to help the South. The North had regained its momentum, and Lincoln was on his way to saving the Union.
Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate what-ifs that never transpired. What if Europe had taken the side of the South? What if the United States had shattered? What if there had been no superpower to defend democracy in the 20th century, only rival nations with incompatible goals vying for the real estate we call the United States? What if the men at Puebla had not saved America?
Trump Retreats on Threat to Close Mexican Border, Offering a ‘One-Year Warning’
(NYT) President Trump said on Thursday that he planned to give Mexico a “one-year warning” before closing the southern border, retreating on a threat he made last week that he would close the border in the coming days if Mexico did not halt all illegal immigration.
“The only thing, frankly, better and less drastic than closing the border is tariff the cars coming in, and I will do it,” Mr. Trump said, speaking to reporters after a meeting with the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. “I don’t play games.”
He added: “If the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars — the whole ballgame is cars. And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border.”
El Norte review: an epic and timely history of Hispanic North America
Carrie Gibson has written an exhaustive corrective to historians who seek to whitewash a story of settlement and conflict
Gibson’s narrative begins much earlier, when the Spanish began their forays into the New World. The author reminds us that the indigenous urban culture of what is now Mexico was much more advanced than anything the conquistadors left behind in Europe.
Tenochtitlan (on the site of Mexico City) had a population of 150,000, “far larger than any European city”. Hernán Cortés arrived there in 1519 and reported to the crown he could “not describe one-hundredth of all the things which could be mentioned”, including a market where “more than 60,000 people come each day to buy and sell, and where every kind of merchandise … is found: provisions as well as … ornaments of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin stones, shells bones and feathers”. When he met Emperor Moctezuma, Cortés was taken to a “vast compound of palaces, apartments, libraries, warehouses, and even a zoo”.
With the typical solicitude of the invader, Cortés soon kidnapped Moctezuma. But he was forced to retreat in 1520, after a battle that killed 400 Spaniards and thousands of Tlaxcala soldiers. A year later, Cortés returned. A plague in the Valley of Mexico would eventually kill millions. The capital fell.
Gibson paints an extremely broad canvas over eight centuries, from early Spanish colonies in Florida and the founding of Louisiana to the battle between the US and Mexico over Texas and Hispanic settlements in California. She reminds us of the immense diversity of Native American culture before the arrival of all Europeans. There were probably 300,000 Native Americans in Alta California before the Spanish arrived, and they spoke “roughly 90 languages under the umbrella of seven broader linguistic families”.