Chilpancigo, at first glance, could only be improved by the detonation of a nuclear bomb. The carreterra libre runs beside the town, which from the road looks like a kid dumped a box of toy houses on a hillside, and then went away to watch TV. Nevertheless Chilpancigo will be my home for the next two days. I pull into the first hotel I see, and there I meet Jaime, one of those rare kindred spirits we meet from time to time. Jaime speaks good English, has a motorcycle and a scooter, and a wide range of interests that complement mine. Jaime is obviously very intelligent, as we agree on most things. We talk and drink beer till Jaime's Rooster announces it is morning.
I ask Jaime about Mexico, why it is the way it is. Jaime tells me when Cortez arrived in 1519 with his 500 soldiers, Mexico was populated by a large number of Indian tribes, all of whom were under the thumb of the Aztecs, who the other tribes hated more than they hated and each other (which they also did). So Cortez was able to conquer Mexico because he delivered the non Aztec tribes from a hated oppressor, but the enmity that existed between the other tribes ensured there would not be a united resistance to the new strong men that replaced the old.
All countries are prisoners of their history. My brother once told me that when he visited Mexico, he found the people very friendly, hospitable and helpful, but they would always him warn him about the bad people in the next town. I hear the same thing. Even if you do not speak to a single Mexican, the sight of the bars over the doors and windows, the high walls with broken glass embedded in the top, home entries that look like bank vaults, razorwire everywhere, you cannot escape that Mexicans do not trust other Mexicans. (So far, I have had no evidence that Mexican security is actually needed, everywhere I go the people are very law abiding, well behaved and scrupulously honest.)
Lack of trust must translate to the lack of cooperation, a community spirit at a local and higher levels, and the citizen activism to ensure each community gets a fair share of basic services from municipal, state and federal government. No one complains, as Jaime explained, as that might cause problems for the complainer.
Anarchists and libertarians, anyone who believes there is too much government interference in their lives need to spend some time in Mexico away from the tourist resorts. There is plenty of government here, but not much of interference. Mexicans are pretty free to do as they please, and the effect is chaotic to one who lives in orderly Canada. But as soon as I am ready to write the place off I encounter something truly remarkable created by the people here, like old Morelia, Taxco, and the Museo in Chilpancigo.
With Jaime's explanation occupying my brain, I enter the museo, and am confronted with a most amazing mural depicting the story of Mexico. (The museo is a former government palace, and the layout is typical of a Mexican villa and many of the hotels I have stayed. A high wall surrounds the property or building with a single entry with 2 very large doors big enough to drive a truck through. The rooms of the casa, or whatever, are built against the outside wall leaving an open courtyard with a fountain, garden or other point of interest in the center. The mural is painted on the walls facing in to the center and was apparently painted by a group of artists from the state of Geurrera of which Chilpancigo is the capital.)
I am going to let the mural speak for itself. Click on the pictures to see them full size.
more later :-)