July, 2010 Archives

Summer Jams

July 14th, 2010 Permalink

  Guitarist Salvador Esparza, left, and trumpeter Lorenzo Parada Garcia, right, bring their roving brand of ranchera music to the Mercado El Popo in downtown Tijuana. Twenty years ago, Para De Garcia left home in Nayarit, Mexico, to work as a musician in Tijuana. The two roam around the bars, markets and restaurants of Tijuana’s […]

Mercado El Popo Tijuana
 
Guitarist Salvador Esparza, left, and trumpeter Lorenzo Parada Garcia, right, bring their roving brand of ranchera music to the Mercado El Popo in downtown Tijuana. Twenty years ago, Para De Garcia left home in Nayarit, Mexico, to work as a musician in Tijuana. The two roam around the bars, markets and restaurants of Tijuana’s El Centro neighborhood, playing their take on Ranchera classics for donations.

Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad

July 13th, 2010 Permalink

  With potholes that can swallow mid-sized sedans whole and a driving culture that sees traffic lights and stop signs as polite suggestions, not hard and fast rules, riding a bike in Tijuana can be a death wish even on the best of days. Despite this, a bike culture is taking root in Tijuana, and […]

Paseo de Todos Tijuana bike bikingPaseo de Todos Tijuana bike bikingPaseo de Todos Tijuana bike biking
 

With potholes that can swallow mid-sized sedans whole and a driving culture that sees traffic lights and stop signs as polite suggestions, not hard and fast rules, riding a bike in Tijuana can be a death wish even on the best of days. Despite this, a bike culture is taking root in Tijuana, and everyday more and more bikes can be seen on the streets of the city.

On a recent Friday, one hundred cyclists gathered at Plaza Santa Ceclia, right beneath Tijuana’s arch, for the first installment of Paseo de Todos Tijuana, a monthly bike ride that takes place at 8pm every first Friday. The two hour spandex-heavy ride wound its was through Tijuana’s El Centro, La Cacho, Zona Rio and Colonia Liberdad neighborhoods, before heading back downtown. Organizers say the ride aims to “produce a cultural change in Tijuana…and demonstrate that it is possible to use bicycles as a form of transportation.”

The sight of a parade of two-wheelers passing elicited waves from people on the street. Residents came out of their homes to catch a glimpse of the mobile commotion, snapping pictures with their cell phones. Cars, temporarily stopped by the procession, seemed more interested than annoyed and honked their horns in support. Even the Tijuana Police Department officers escorting the ride were polite and professional.

Near the end of the evening, the roving spectacle rode past Avenida Revolucion—now showing signs of life—to the cheers and applause of Tijuanenses. It was a hopeful moment. After the darkest chapter in its history, Tijuanenses are reclaiming their city, and proving that another Tijuana is possible.

Tijuana Falls To The PRI

July 5th, 2010 Permalink

  Carlos Bustamante, the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] candidate for mayor, won a stunning but decisive victory over the National Action Party’s [PAN] Carlos Torres in yesterday’s election, ousting the dominant political force that has ruled Tijuana every term for the last two decades, save for one. Up 18 points at the beginning of the […]

PRI Tijuana election Mexico BustamantePRI Tijuana election Mexico BustamantePRI Tijuana election Mexico Bustamante
 

Carlos Bustamante, the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] candidate for mayor, won a stunning but decisive victory over the National Action Party’s [PAN] Carlos Torres in yesterday’s election, ousting the dominant political force that has ruled Tijuana every term for the last two decades, save for one.

Up 18 points at the beginning of the contest and seemingly assured victory, Torres blanketed the city with campaign billboards with his image, proclaiming himself “the new mayor” months before election day. It was a presumptuous move in a country that spent 71 years under authoritarian rule, with elections characterized by coercion, fraud and violence.

While Torres’ overconfidence bordered on offensive, anti-incumbent anger and disillusionment with PAN rule were responsible for his 5-percent thrashing at the polls, a loss that surprised everyone in Tijuana, including his opponent. “First, I’ve got to digest this victory,” Bustamante said to a crowd of supporters at the Grand Hotel.

Outside, Tijuana’s Priistas reveled in victory. A flag-waving color guard took to the city’s main thoroughfare, turning Boulevard Aguacaliente into an impromptu street party. Cars loaded well over capacity, with Bustamante supporters popping out of windows and sunroofs, did victory laps on the streets surrounding the hotel, horns honking the entire way.
 
The State of Things – A PAN Loss, Not a PRI Win
 

At the state level, the PRI also fared well. Baja California Norte—the PAN stronghold that delivered Mexico its first state-level opposition victory over absolute PRI rule with the election of Ernesto Ruffo Appel in 1989—was swept clean by PRI’s slate of candidates in all five of the state’s municipalities, Tecate, Ensenada, Mexicali, Rosarito and Tijuana.

While the PRI took all the mayorships in the state, Vicente Calderon, editor of tijuanapress.com, said the election results signify a repudiation of PAN rule, not an endorsement of the PRI. “There’s a lot of resentment with the PAN governments and the administrations in the sense that people think that they stop listening to their constituency,” Calderon said. “To the voters… [the PAN] actually became the PRI and doing the same things that they were criticizing when they were opposition.”
 
Crystal Ballers, Shot Callers
 

Nationally, both parties are claiming victory. Beatriz Paredes, the PRI’s party leader, believes the election illustrates the reemergence of her party. “It’s a triumph for the PRI,” Paredes said. “These elections confirm that the PRI is the biggest political force in the country.” President Calderón’s party cited their ability to beat back a resurgent PRI by nabbing three important states that never broke from the PRI’s ranks.

For crystal balling political experts trying to make sense of the election and its repercussions on the 2012 presidential contest, no fixed narrative has emerged. Some analysts see a resurgent PRI positioned well for 2012, while others maintain that the election’s outcome is “politically inconclusive.” Little attention has been paid to what the election means for Mexico’s nascent democracy.

David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego’s Transborder Institute, said yesterday’s election doesn’t bode well for Calderón’s party. “Political observers are looking to see, what is the Mexican electorate thinking next and what parties are they backing?” Shirk said. “And this is just more evidence that the chances of a PRI takeover at the national level in 2012 are almost guaranteed.”

The Economist’s Newsbook blog, however, had a different take. “[The PRI] showed no net gain, and in fact traded control of three big states for three small ones. The results may blunt the PRI’s momentum somewhat—the party won control of the lower house of Congress in last year’s midterm elections—but are unlikely to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the 2012 presidential race.”

The PRI losses in the longtime strongholds of Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa to “crazy-quilt political alliances” formed between PAN and the Democratic Revolution Party [PRD], despite the parties’ rigid ideological divides, may have been the most interesting development of the election. With the PAN-PRD trifecta in Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa, the alliance seized 11 percent of Mexico’s population and 7.1 percent of its GDP, according to INEGI, Mexico’s national statistics agency. While the PRI did pick up Aguascalientes, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas, it was a lopsided trade as these states account for just 3 percent of the country’s population and 2.7 percent of its GDP.

Cited as important PAN victories in curbing a surging PRI, they also create an interesting play book for the bellwether election for governor in the state on Mexico, the country’s most populous, in 2011. There, the current governor, Enrique Peña Nieto, is incredibly popular and the PRI’s leading candidate for the presidency. “A PAN-PRD alliance could prove competitive against his PRI successor in the 2011 gubernatorial race. Should the alliance win there, Mr. Peña Nieto’s presidential prospects would not be so clear,” said Enrique Krauze, editor of the magazine Letras Libres and the author of “Mexico: Biography of Power.
 
From Perfect Dictatorship to Imperfect Democracy
 

While Mexico watchers struggled to set an election narrative and decode what the results might mean for the 2012 presidential contest, the most important story—the state of the Mexican democracy—went almost unnoticed. “Mexico is changing. It’s a country where increasingly people expect an alternation of parties. People expect their parties to be accountable,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Perhaps the greatest take-away from Sunday’s elections is that democracy is surprisingly healthy in Mexico, perhaps more so than many analysts recognize.”

This is story of Mexico’s 2010 election. Despite fears of election violence, voters went to the polls anyway and proved that Mexico’s democracy, while just ten years young, is alive and well—even flourishing.