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 Helú, 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.