Gasolinazo, saqueos and the conspiracy theory: the Mexican political system must be revolutionised

Mexico has been in the news a lot recently – and not in a good way. While the shootings in Cancun are shocking and an undeniably horrible loss, I’ve also been struck by the level of frustration and anger due to rise of the price of gas.

Essentially, the Mexican government used to own the monopoly on gas production and they would set a price. Effective the 1st January 2017, the government privatised the state-owned gas company PEMEX and opened up the gas market to competition. Greater choice of brands sounds like it could be a good thing in theory; but in actuality it instigated the “gasolinazo” crisis, as the government announced that the new prices would be 20% higher than they were before. That’s to say, in the space of one day, the price of gas rose to higher than it had been in the past 20 years.

Prices Up! Source: Mundo TKM

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A quick trip to the Lone Star State

This year one of my cousins is living and studying in Houston, Texas. As I’m only just across the border these days, just before Christmas time, I decided to join my other cousin on a visit (clearly a family of jet-setters).

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Havana, Cuba: Culture Shock Round 2

A month ago I went to one of my dream destinations: Cuba. I can’t speak for the whole of the country, as I only went to Havana, but I would say that my trip was more “interesting” than fully enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I plan to visit again and it was definitely at least partly due to my poor organisation. I didn’t realise how difficult it can be as a tourist there – naivety is the word I think best describes my trip.

Things I thought might make a nice change, like not having easy access to wifi or mobile coverage, quickly turned into a massive pain and stress; we were on different flights, so once the first person boarded their plane we had no idea when we were all going to be in contact again. Our reservation wasn’t received by the lovely people who ran a hostel near the Estadio Latinoamericano Baseball stadium because she hadn’t had wifi to check and therefore all the beds were full. We stayed in her half-renovated apartment for the first night, which only had access to cold water, on mattresses on the floor. Not really ideal.

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How do Mexicans feel about Mexico?

Talking to my friends on their respective years abroad in The Netherlands, New Zealand and the US, I’ve realised that perhaps I’ve experienced more of a culture shock. It’s not just the smaller things that would be a big deal at home, like the fact that the roads can be riddled with potholes (the East Dulwich Forum would have a field day here) or that postal system is practically non-existent (parcels have been lost forever, postcards have been sent months ago and still not received).

There are bigger things too. Like the mistreatment and malnutrition of animals, or the fact that a decent percentage of people seem more than happy to drink and drive. The fact that a huge portion of income goes untaxed is interesting, it must be holding back the economy (though on the plus side apparently I could get an illegal job here, no worries). One of the biggest shocks, though, is that the presence of police officers makes me feel scared rather than safe. That may be the case for some people in Britain too, but the worst thing is that it seems to be how the majority here feel. And despite it all, said majority seem to get through all these things without whining (UK, please take note).

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Cervantino y Día de Muertos

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato and then took a day trip to nearby San Miguel de Allende. They’re both beautiful colonial cities, colourful and built up the side of hills to really test your stamina in the mid-day heat. I went with a group who had hired a bus with a driver among friends, and we slept on said bus to save money on accommodation. It was very effective in terms of saving money, though the attempted cleansing in the nearby gas station was less so. Sleeping on a main road, it was perhaps not the prettiest location (and the dead dog at the side of the road didn’t help with the ambience) but the cities in themselves were truly beautiful. With big parties from the Colombian hosts and tons of walks and museums to see, my favourite being Diego Rivera’s house in Guanajuato, which also had a special exhibition of contemporary Latin American artists. It was a great, tiring weekend!

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It honestly feels like I’ve spent hardly any time at home these past couple of months, been jet (well…autobus) setting around Mexico. Here’s a selection of my latest trips/viajes.

20th August: Huachinango
Around the beginning of August, there was a hurricane that affected a number of communities within the states of Puebla and Veracruz, as reported here. A few people at my university decided to bring people together to help Huachinango, a village in the state of Puebla affected, and I volunteered to lend a hand. I wasn’t really sure what it was going to entail. It was three hours away on possibly the worst roads I’ve ever been on (luckily I seem to have overcome my travel sickness…yay). While we are largely safe from this kind of natural disaster with the city of Puebla being a couple of thousand metres above sea level, this village lay at the bottom of the mountains.

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Observations of Difference

So I’ve been here for a little while now, and apart from the obvious differences between the UK and Mexico (food, climate, language) I’ve noticed a few other little things.

1. Machismo and Malinchismo. Club entry… free for girls and internationals.

So I’ll start with the bad. A lot of the clubs here offer free entry and even open bars to girls. There has been talk about Mexican machismo in the news recently and, here in Puebla, gender roles do seem to be very traditional and restrictive. Although this club offer may seem to benefit women, it seems like it is ultimately intended to benefit men. More drunk girls = more happy (creepy) men. Yay.

The word Malinchismo I learned just the other day. It means to have a preference for all things foreign. I was told that this was definitely the case for the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, but it also seems true for the clubs here to an extent. One event was advertised as an event for international students and luckily for us: “They are only charging the cover to those who are Mexicans”. Seemed quite twisted but we went anyway and the club was awful. Go figure.

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