The Challenges of Modernizing Mexico,
March 18, 2002 9:49 AM   Subscribe

The Challenges of Modernizing Mexico, or, How Do We Keep Our Village Elders From Burying People Alive?
posted by o2b (9 comments total)
interesting bit of an article there...

if roads and manpower are a problem with a widely dispersed rural population, give them all satelite internet hook-ups.

Admister remotely. Trials, meetings, etc...

[the geek in me answers.]
posted by th3ph17 at 10:56 AM on March 18, 2002

The lack of a functioning formal criminal justice system in parts of rural Mexico is a specific instance of the worldwide "Problem of Criminal Safehavens, Kleptocracies, and Failed States ... where criminals can operate with virtual impunity." "Impunity" is a big issue in Mexico, and elsewhere in Latin America as well. There's an "Impunity" website, dedicated to "The Rapid Response Unit (RRU) of the Inter American Press Association’s Unpunished Crimes Against Journalists." Human Rights Watch has a report on impunity and the Mexican military. One good thing to come out of all this "war on terrorism" business is the fact that it's suddenly important for the US to support criminal justice systems that don't just focus on repression, but actually attempt to catch criminals.
posted by sheauga at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2002

th3ph17 - They don't even have electricity. Pepsi, yes; electricity, no. Makes satellite hookups a shade tougher.

Good article, o2b. I considered posting it when I saw it at the Post.
posted by NortonDC at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2002

use windmills and solar panels to recharge battery operated 'big brother' kiosks--one for each village.

I know that is unrealistic as well, i just felt like being a technology optimist today.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2002

My uncle had a direct hand in the transformation of some small communities in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Although the process did involve the usual cutting of red tape and overcoming legal and logistical obstacles, I think what he discovered to be most challenging was getting the local people to want change.

Modernization, as you might imagine, is not necessarily regarded as a good thing. Many of these small communities are small farming communities composed of leaders who do not want to give up power and certainly not to the Mexican government. People mistrust the government and, in many cases, rightly.

In particular, the small town of Purepero, Michoacan is considered by many to be a textbook case of how to achieve progress in a slow but sure manner. Local farmowners and wealthy landowners, in the 1960's, were first enticed to donate money for roads (if the local residents are willing to shell out money, its easier to get the Mexican govt to participate). Essentially, its presented to the locals as a commerce transaction. Next comes power and then satellite television (which my uncle helped install in the early 90's). This little pig-farming town has now grown to 15,000 people - it has had the added effect of dissolving smaller, local villages whose residents jumped onto the modernization (and money) bandwagon.

In any case, Purepero now has its own website and ISP. The key, I think, to modernizing Mexico is to create local Hubs like Purepero who contain in them forward-thinking residents and natural community leaders. If you modernize that one town, the rest will hopefully follow by example.

PS. The Postscript to this story is that, as we all know, modernization does not have a happy ending. As the town grows and draws greedy capitalists, there have been huge fights now over the (rising) value of local water supplies, real estate etc. etc.
posted by vacapinta at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2002

vacapinta - The Postscript to this story is that, as we all know, modernization does not have a happy ending.

Really? Tell it to someone whose daughter got needed antibiotics.

Or did you accidentally leave out a qualifier in that blanket statement?
posted by NortonDC at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2002

Really? Tell it to someone whose daughter got needed antibiotics

I'm glad your daughter was able to get her antibiotics. But, modernization is a mixed blessing. Right now, my uncle is helping to combat some of the negative results of his work. In particular, a local Indian village whose entire way of life is threatened by the local modernization - they are fighting for their livelihood (as independent farmers), their lands (some have leased their lands), their culture and even their language.

And, as people compete for local resources indiscriminately, the amount of violence has increased without the attendant increase in police forces. Bored youth, now getting a taste of the larger world culture, are rebelling against their elders in ugly ways. Illiteracy is still high, educational opportunities are still lacking. The town, emerging out of its isolation, is discovering that it is part of a larger mexican class system in which it sits squarely on the bottom.
posted by vacapinta at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2002

Since when does getting enough police hired and trained relate to modernization? There are remote villages in lots of places, do people get buried alive in some village version of kangaroo court in all of them? This village doesn't need an ISP or modernization schemes. It just needs a phone line to the nearest police station.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2002

vacapinta - "Mixed blessing" is long way off from declaring that modernization never leads to happiness.

Your more balanced representation is appreciated.
posted by NortonDC at 4:49 PM on March 18, 2002

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