January 23, 2020
MEXICO CITY — There is no border as intricate and diverse as the one separating Mexico and the United States, and while the easy thing would be to simplify and rationalize it as just a commercial issue, the reality is infinitely more complex.
The line between the two countries includes legal and illegal crossings, drugs, contraband, persons, ideas, goods, services and disputes. Everything that exists on one side crosses over to the other, and as an old saying from that region goes: "If it fits on the bridge, it can pass."
That diversity and complexity is difficult to understand looking out from central Mexico. The north is marked by a symbiotic relationship, on both sides of the border, wherein everyone lives off another and nobody can explain their lives or success without that other. Indeed, many think of the border region as a "third country," one that's as distant from Mexico City as it is from Washington DC. Really, though, it's a dynamic space where the best and worst of both countries are exchanged.
For decades, the Americans saw the Mexican side of the border as a place of fun and sexual liberation, but also where they could lead simpler, less structured lives than in their country. We in turn have come to see it as an unending opportunity for sales, customers and business development that would never have come about without the trade liberalization of NAFTA.
The trade deal has since been revised — and debilitated — and relations between the two countries certainly took a hit starting in 2016. But generally speaking, ties have grown over the years in depth and scope. And with the trade war between the United States and China, there may even be new opportunities that were almost inconceivable just a few years back.
The big question is whether or not we Mexicans can turn this particular moment into an opportunity, both in the context of Donald Trump (and the coming campaign) and of our structural problems. Unfortunately, these are problems aren't being solved. Nor to they feature in any resolution agenda.
The government recognizes there are limitations to the country's development, but has refused to admit so far that its preconceptions aren't viable and are in fact detrimental to restarting the developmental process. Our leaders recognize that crime persists. Yet their chosen strategy, which does not even include fortifying local police, will not yield the great results they've promised.
The Mexican, whatever his or her origins or ilk, has shown enormous adaptability in daily life. while migrants are making an appearance in our national life, with increasing talents and willingness to develop big projects that can change the country's trade and economy. The bilateral relationship is real, unequivocal and systematic: It can either bring enormous benefits, or intractable disputes, but what it will not stand is radical changes.
Mexicans are deprived of that most elementary of rights — to be safe — whether in a border town or one of the main cities.
The violence in this relationship is the product of a poorly understood interaction. Obviously a large proportion of the arms the cartels and gangs use here come from the United States, but it is equally obvious that Mexico has failed so far, at all levels, to develop crime-fighting strategies that can reassure the country's residents. This abysmal failure has deprived them of that most elementary of rights — to be safe — whether in a border town or one of the main cities.
Uncertainty and insecurity are intrinsic, daily characteristics of the lives of all Mexicans, regardless of their loyalty to or rejection of the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. While many are positive about him in opinion polls and back him with conviction, the same polls show that a vast majority of Mexicans want improvement, not radical changes.
It is easy from the heights of public office to accuse or forgive presumed lawbreakers, but for the ordinary Mexican every instance of corruption, extortion, murder and blatant deceit is just a continuation of a prolonged history of abuses, impositions and corruption. The president can be immaculate, but his administration has shown it is no different than the ones that came before. Corruption is suffocating the presidential party, MORENA, the way it did the PRI, the conservative PAN and socialist PRD parties. Without a rectified direction, it will have the same results.
The bilateral relationship can be an opportunity or a curse, depending on one's perspective. Anyone who knows the reality of daily life in his or her locality knows that the heart of our problem is not the border, the Americans or our relations. It is our own dogged inability to stabilize the country and create local policemen able to keep Mexicans of all classes and conditions, safe.
López Obrador's agenda is as ambitious as it is blind. What Mexicans want is solutions, but what our leader seeks is excuses. One wonders: How much time and harm, will it take before blindness yields to reality?
America Economia is Latin America's leading business magazine, founded in 1986 by Elias Selman and Nils Strandberg. Headquartered in Santiago, Chile, it features a region-wide monthly edition and regularly updated articles online, as well as country-specific editions in Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico.
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food / travel
With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.
Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson
October 26, 2021
When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.
And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.
Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan
The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan
According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.
In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.
The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.
Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.
View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA
Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!
The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.
Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.
Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain
Old Belchite, Spain
Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…
That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.
Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.
If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.
Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan
Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.
Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."
Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.
Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden
The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden
After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).
Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.
Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia
Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia
During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.
Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.
Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy
Poveglia Island, Italy
Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).
During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.
In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.
Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.
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