Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quotables: Soft Parade

“On paper, Mexican soft power is impressive: extraordinary gastronomy and more museums and art galleries than many countries in the world . . . but Mexico doesn’t sell all this well  . . . and the story of Mexico that the international press presents is still dominated by crime and violence, and if that doesn’t change, none of the rest matters.” 
    The quote is out of a recent edition of the Canadian magazine Monocle. It refers to the oldest conflict in journalism — the duty to keep readers informed about important issues versus the desirability of presenting a balanced picture of reality. Most of us in Mexico are aware of our blessings — cultural, social, historical and natural — though we’re not in the habit of referring to them as soft power. The rest of the world is less informed of the “impressive” elements, since all they hear about is violence, corruption, crime and unrest. The only respite is in tourism promotion and “travel” (really vacation) journalism, which skews reality in a different way. I don’t know the solution, but I do know what would help: significantly less violence, corruption, crime and unrest for us to write about.

“It’s not normal.”
    These are words that Amnesty International spokespersons used as a summary, a slogan and a hashtag (#noesnormal) during a press conference Friday accusing the Attorney General’s Office of carrying out a half-hearted investigation of the disappearance of 42 students in Iguala. The phrase is a play on words, perhaps unintentional, of the victims’ origins (they were students at a rural teachers college, called normal schools in Mexico). But its purpose was to underscore the urgency of the crime investigation and chide the Peña Nieto administration for allegedly trying to manipulate public opinion in order to “move on” from the tragedy.

“I know now I was happy. If I cried I also loved. I can go on to the end . . . my way.”
    What we have here is (deep breath) a translation back into English of the Spanish version of the English lyrics to “My Way,” which itself is a revised version of the original 1970s French pop song “Comme d’habitude,” which was not about the end of life but the end of a marriage. They (the Spanish lyrics) were sung at a farewell party by the recently dismissed security commissioner for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo. Captured on video, the performance can be seen here. The press and nation don’t seem to be quite sure what to make of it. Should we be outraged or endeared? I report. You decide.
    Castillo, by the way, will not be replaced as security commissioner; the slot is eliminated. But a general named Felipe Gurrola Ramírez was sent in to take charge of the federal military presence in the state. He was greeted by several attacks against military and police personnel, leaving four dead in the first 24 hours of his assignment.

“There are 2,040,000 members who continue to be affiliated with the PRD nationwide, compared to 28 resignations in the last three months . . . A party is much more than six founders and 28 renouncers.”
    That’s Carlos Navarrete, president of the Democratic Revolution Party, responding to death knells in the press about his party after many of its most important members — including its founders and both of its only presidential candidates —  bolted. Navarrete insists that the PRD will not be damaged by the desertions. The thing is, though, that  the desertions are the result of a damaged party, not the cause.


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