News Around the Republic of Mexico | September 2007
|A Mexican Miscellany that Goes Beyond the News|
Allan Wall - PVNN
The Mexican news cycle, as you would expect, focuses on the developing stories considered the most prominent and pressing, and as of late it’s usually political news. For example, the ongoing drama surrounding the Informe (Mexican state of the union address) has been a major focus.
Nevertheless, in a country as large and diverse as Mexico there are all sorts of other things happening, as well as long-term social trends developing that are accorded less attention. But these stories under the radar screen are also of interest to Mexico news watchers.
Mexican news, in other words, includes more than political wrangling and drug violence.
For example, the Mexican military has been carrying out relief efforts to aid Peru after the recent earthquake in that South American country, which registered 7.9 on the Richter scale. It killed 519 people, injured 366 and destroyed 56,363 houses.
Over two weeks ago, the Mexican Air Force carried a shipment of relief supplies (water treatment equipment, medicine, food and blankets) by air to Peru.
And now, the Mexican Navy vessel Zapateco has arrived to the coast of Peru. The Zapateco is a hospital ship, manned by a crew of 67 including 26 medical doctors. It has two operating rooms and transported 40 tons of medicines, food, clothing and water for the relief effort in Peru.
In the field of education, a standardized test called ENLACE (National Evaluation of Academic Achievement in Schools) was recently applied to 10,000 Mexican students (grades 1-9), in 130,000 schools. Among other things, the test discovered the deficiencies of many Mexican instructors in Spanish and mathematics, so 12,000 of them have been ordered to take remedial classes in these areas.
A recent study by Dr. Enrique Caballero, of the Joslin Diabetes Institute, calculates that 10 million Mexicans have diabetes, and thousands don’t even know they have it. Diabetes is the 3rd most prevalent cause of death in Mexico, and the main cause of death in the IMSS (Social Security) public health system. According to Dr. Caballero, the reasons for worsening levels of diabetes are poor diets, lack of medical control, and the failure of patients to heed their doctors’ instructions.
The Mexican Defense ministry, which oversees the Army and Air Force (the Navy being under the authority of the Secretariat of the Navy), has just expanded the role of women. Previously, females were only allowed in the medical roles of doctors and nurses, but now the military is allowing them to be pilots and construction engineers. Currently there are only 6,309 women in the Army and Air Force (with 191,000 total troop strength). Women are still excluded from the combat arms of infantry, artillery and armor (as in the U.S. Army, although in Iraq the lines between the military specialties are often blurred).
What’s the real reason for the military’s expansion opportunities for women? It’s certainly not the result of any kind of widespread social pressure. Roderic Camp, an expert on the Mexican military at Claremont-McKenna College in California, says it’s because “it has become more difficult to keep men in the Army.” With the Mexican military’s high desertion rate and frequent deployments in the war against the drug cartels, that may be the most accurate explanation.
In another social trend, it was recently announced that Mexico has 26 million singles, which is close to a quarter of the population. Although Mexican population growth has slowed, there is still a large proportion of young people and they are marrying later.
Another trend is the growth of credit card use in Mexico, which has tripled since 2002. Now 22 million Mexicans have credit cards, with lenders and retailers actively marketing them to the public.
Meanwhile, an official of SAGARPA, the Mexican government’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, points out some interesting information about honey production in Mexico. Mexico is the world’s 5th largest producer of honey (after China, Argentina, the United States, and Turkey), with 40 percent of the country’s production taking place on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula. Furthermore, Mexico is the world’s third-biggest honey exporter.
This is an industry that could easily be expanded to the benefit of depressed rural areas. And yet, like many promising Mexican enterprises, you almost never hear about it.
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at AllanWall.net.
Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.