Mexico City examined in ‘First Stop in the New World’

by Dave

Mexico CityImage via Wikipedia

via SF Chronicle
in “First Stop in the New World,” author David Lida mostly eschews forecasting in favor of clear-eyed, agenda-free journalism, grounded in old-fashioned street reporting.

Nothing fundamental has changed since the North American Free Trade Agreement, or really for the past couple of decades, except that a Mexican, Carlos Slim HelĂș, has surpassed Bill Gates to become the world’s second-richest man after Warren Buffett. Mexico is unarguably richer today – its per capita gross domestic product the second highest (after Brazil) in Latin America – but, surprise, those funds haven’t been spread around. Some 50 percent of Mexico City’s population still lives in poverty, and only 12 percent of workers earn more than $23 a day. Though few are destitute, for the vast majority life is still uncomfortable and abusive, governed by long work days, iffy public services, petty rip-offs and kidnapping threats. The ambiance is one of cynicism, sexual repression and hopelessness.

Lida cites Octavio Paz‘s description of Mexicans as suffering from a chronic mistrustfulness, an inferiority complex and an outward servility that disguises cunning, resentment and a lust for revenge. When you work for someone else, according to the reigning belief, your prospects are nil: You’ll never get a raise, and are expected to keep shoulder to wheel until you die or are discarded (as Lida himself discovered when he took a publishing job and couldn’t get a raise during his 3 1/2 years there.) A job is such a raw deal that Lida sees the 35 percent of workers who participate in the informal economy as having made the smarter choice.