Monday, July 31, 2006

Cycle of Violence

There is no such thing as a cycle of violence. If there were, we would still be fighting Germany. Indeed, we would still be fighting Britain, Britain would still be fighting France, and Rome would still be fighting Carthage. Violence lasts until it is over.

It is not true that "violence breeds violence". Sometimes violence leads to more violence. Sometimes it leads to immediate surrender. Sometimes it takes a lot of violence to obtain a surrender. For a time the violence may make one or both sides angrier, but eventually they will wish, or be forced, to come to terms.

The only value in these phrases is that they let you know the person uttering them doesn't like the violence being discussed.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


We took the subway two stops from the station near our hotel to Chapultepec. The Mexican Metro stations are marked with interesting symbols, this one a Grasshopper, as apparently that is what Chapultepec means. Continuing with the 1847 idea of our tour, this was a logical place to visit on our last day. It was the last battle in the war, American troops marched from there to the center of the city where a peace treaty was signed.

There is a lot more history at the site, it was Maximiliens palace when he was emperor, Porfirio Diaz lived there, etc. In 1847 it was a military school, and some of the students died as heros defending it. One was only 13 years old.

There is a huge monument at the site, that makes mention of the war in 1847, but is silent as to the identity of the invader. Our tourist map was equally circumspect. The last room we visited at the museum did indeed identify the US as the invader, and even included an American uniform and rifle. There was a video playing on repeat that showed a reconstruction of the battle. My Spanish is far from excellent (not even passable to be honest) but it seemed that they video claimed the Mexicans were outnumbered. Ballentine of course asserts the opposite.

We spent some time at the Museum of Modern Art, at the foot of the hill on which the citadel stands. The Frida Kahlo painting of her cutting her blood vessel to symbolize her divorce from Diego Rivera is there, as were a number of other interesting paintings. Our plan was to go to the Geology museum, but it was closed for the month, so here we are. Soon we should leave to the Zocalo, or perhaps Churrabusco, another site of battle in 1847 that is now within the city limits.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Some museums, and a mall

We visited a couple of museums in the historical center of Mexico City today. There is a Naval museum on the fourth floor of the main post office, which is a marvel worthy of a look in its own right. The museum had many of the same exhibits as the one in Veracruz, so it was a quick visit, sort of a refresher. Did I mention the bit about the Mexican oil tankers sunk in WWII by German U-boats? Off the coast of Texas and Florida? Very interesting.

The Army museum is a block away and rather small.

The Art museum was worth a visit, we saw a film crew doing a documentary on the miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are some paintings of that event there as well.

Gus had an appointment at a mall out of town, we took public transport there which was a bit of an adventure. The taxi back was rather quicker. The mall was like a mall anywhere, there is perhaps such a thingn as "mall-space". However the papaya in the fruit cup I had was the best in quite a while.

They are stacking the chairs in the internet cafe, so I probably should be off, not to mention that Gus is looking over my shoulder and probably wants to get something to eat. He nods, so I guess I will ....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mexico City

We are in Mexico city now. Stopped off at Cholula on the way. I recommend it, there is a pyramid there that was built over the centuries. Every 52 years they would cover the old one with a new. It is not completely uncovered, but you can see parts of it, and there are tunnels to go into it. We took a guided tour, so it was not as mysterious as some of the things we have seen on this trip.

There is a church on top of the mound, a Spanish response to the habit formerly indulged in of decapitating children on the temple there. I suppose a church is a good way to inhibit human sacrifice. There was a service in progress when we were up there, the attendees had all climbed a good number of stairs.

It was a bit of a relief to turn in the car here today. Driving in Mexico is not too bad, but Mexico city really is a bit nuts. It was funny, as we drove in everything looked familiar. There was not a block that you could not have seen in Puebla say (except the ones with skyscrapers perhaps). The thing that defines the city is the extent. It just goes on and on.

We are staying in the Zona Rosa, which used to be very hip, but is now a bit touristy. It has been a while since I saw as many Japanese people on the street. Not even my last visit to NYC I think. There are even a number of Korean restaurants here.

Some political excitement, we came in on Reforma, which was blocked in the opposite direction by numerous protestors sitting on the pavement. When we were walking around after checking in to the hotel we saw a couple of bus loads of riot police. They did not look like they were in a hurry to get anywhere, but they sure looked serious. Black Samurai style helmets, armour, leggings, all black. Before we left, noticed that the next big demo is scheduled for saturday, we leave friday.

Cybercafe closing!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lencero to Puebla

Yesterday before leaving Jalapa we paid a visit to Lencero, which Ballantine refers to as Encerro. The situation is indeed "admirable" although the view was a bit clouded when we were there. At least the rain stopped, so we could walk around the duck pond at will.

The museum is organized along the principle that a guide will explain everything. We did not have one, so the complete absence of explanatory information meant that we saw a lot of lovely furniture. No idea who may have sat in it, although we were pretty sure that Santa Anna did so at one time. Looking at the house one could imagine why he left Cerro Gordo early.

The drive to Puebla passed some beautiful terrain. There are some mountains that come up as you pass from the state of Veracruz. If Veracruz is "Texas with rain" (cows, horses, even lots of cowboy hats) then Puebla looked at first like "New Mexico with rain". The mountains are a bit similar to what you might see between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, although they seemed more square, as if they were younger, or made of harder material. Anyone with actual geology is welcome to comment.

There was one spot on the road that Ballentine came alive. The road passes through a narrow pass, and I remembered his commenting on the slow march, with numerous delays to let scouts check the road ahead.

The last bit of driving, in the rain, in the dark, was a more modern experience. The roads here are not highways, you will often see roadside establishments next to them. At one point last night I saw three people standing at the side of the highway. They were so shrouded by the rain that I almost took them for ghosts.

Another highlight was passing the five car pileup in the left lane. Fortunately the Jetta we rented handles quite well, and I did not make it into a six car one. The officer with a flashlight and the cones helped too ...

It is now lunchtime.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cerro Gordo to Jalapa

On friday we drove up the old highway from Veracruz to Jalapa (or Xalapa). There was a battle along the way at a place called Cerro Gordo, but I had not been able to find much information about where that was on the internet. Oddly enough as we were driving along there was suddenly a sign ¨Cerro Gordo¨. We stopped for dinner at a restaraunt there called Los Palomas. I had a fish relleno that was good. The salsa was very fresh and tasty, and the place was very pleasant to sit in. It actually started to get a bit chilly as we were there, and I put my fleece on.

We did not look too hard, but in any case we did not see any plaques or monuments commemerating the battle. Possibly that is because the battle went rather poorly for Mexico. After Santa Anna rode away on his horse, much of his army chose the same path. The book that got me interested in the war (linked above) reports that the road to Jalapa was littered with discarded rifles.

Yesterday we visited the local Anthropology museum, reputed to be the second best in Mexico. Many of the objects were interesting, although giant head number five is perhaps not so exciting as giant head number one, even though it also is carved from tons of stone. The flayed man is worth a look, and the unusual ceramic animals were delightful. The main problem may have been that virtually everything on display was brown or grey, which is a bit tiresome.

Also got some laundry done, at a reasonable rate, away from the hotel. Took the opportunity to point out to Gus that we got all of our clothes done for less than one shirt would have cost at the hotel. The minor inconvenience of carrying them a block away was probably worth it.

We had seen some signs for a wrestling event, but did not copy down the right part of the poster, and were thus unable to find it. I thought ¨bosque del recuerdo¨ sounded like a location, but in fact it means ¨funeral home¨and was thus probably part of the come on for the show. It might have been fun to see the cybernetic death cult fight the whatever they weres, but it was not to be.

Lunch yesterday was at a chicken place, we had everything but chicken. The Queso Asado was good, a slab of grilled cheese, with sauteed onions and some green chile. The chile was the closest thing to New Mexico green chile I have had in a while. Jalapa supposedly gave its name to the Jalapeño, but we have not seen any on the menu here. Dinner was enchiladas after a bit of walking around during which we got some fruit and yogurt from a street vendor. The bananas I thought were amazing, the papaya less so.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Deflated pig

Deflated pig, originally uploaded by efroymson.

On the way to Tuxtla we stopped at a carneceria. This is a new entry in my meat themed series of pictures.


Mexican Food

As anyone who has been to Mexico already knows, Mexican food is not the same as ¨Mexican Food¨ in the USA. Veracruz is known for its fish. Yesterday I ordered a salmon filet and it was rather dull until I put some of the salsa from the table on it. The olive oil the waiter brought out was also helpful, as was the lime from the bowl of them that came at the same time as the chips and salsa.

Last night we found a place in Boca del Rio that was really tasty. I saw an old woman going ¨pat pat pat¨ with some tortillas, then dropping them into hot oil. Decided that Empañadas would be a good idea, and it turned out that they were. Some with potatoes and some with tuna.

Also ordered a cheese enchilada with the salsa verde. We were warned that the green was very hot, but insisted to the waiter that we could handle it. He seemed impressed, if we understood him correctly we were the first Americans to eat it, usually gringos prefer a tomato sauce.

It is raining, so we ate a hotel breakfast this morning. Lots of really good fruit, and some of the best fresh grapefruit juice ever. The pineapple here is very sweet and juicy. Yesterday we missed the opening hours of San Juan Ullua (the fortress by the port) and got some pineapple and mango from a vendor as a consolation prize. He put chile, salt and lime on it, which oddly was good. I guess it is not so odd, I remember putting salt on watermelon as a child.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Visiting Mexico now. Went to the Naval history museum here today. there are such a number of invasions documented that it makes you feel a bit sorry for Mexico. The one we are interested in was the 1846 landing by the Americans. Our plan is to follow the route they took to Mexico City. The war, though not remembered much these days, is why New Mexico and California (among other places) are in the USA and not part of Mexico.

There are reminders of that war around here. There is an old church converted to a memorial for Benito Juarez. One of the bronze statues in it was of a man who had been a member of the National Guard in Jalapa (our next stop) and fought as a Medic at the battle of Cerro Gordo (the exact location of which I have not determined). Later this fellow was the Mexican Ambassador to the USA, so no hard feelings I guess.

Actually the Spanish text at the museum discussing the war seemed to be a bit hard on the USA, assigning it more blame than other texts I have read. Santa Anna´s name turns up in a lot of places, but I did not catch any references to his treachery. I suppose everyone wants to think the best of their country, I blogged last year about the almost complete absence of references to the guillotine in the French History museum we visited in Paris.

Dinner time!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Palestinian Nazis in San Francisco?

So I got a couple of emails yesterday alerting me to a demonstration in Downtown San Francisco. Some folks were going to be protesting against Israel and its acts of self-defense. We were going to counter-demonstrate.

Gus and I took the Bart into SF, and walked up Montgomery street. As we left the Bart station, we saw a fellow in a shirt patterned like the Palestinian Flag wearing a Kaffiyeh. Apparently he was going to the same demo, but the opposite side of the street.

When we got there I looked around for a sign, as I had been told that there would be some available. The only ones I saw said "Stop Missle attacks on Israel". We carried it for a bit, even after the mispelling was pointed out to us. That was a bit embarrassing.

We were across from the Internation Answer folks and the other assorted lunatics and haters. They were actually chanting their support for the terrorists in Hamas and Hezbollah. It was a bit surprising to me. Also surprising was their modified version of the usual chant:

From the River to the Sea,
Palestine will be Free.

Although that is bad enough, with its implicit denial of the existence of the State of Israel, they made it worse:

Push Olmert into the Sea,
Palestine will be Free.

Brought back memories of the Six Day War, and Nasser's threats to push Israel into the Sea. Well, I must admit that I am not old enough to actually recall the events of 1967, but I did read about it in Oren's excellent Six Days of War. The willingness of the demonstrators to state openly their desire to destroy Israel was new to me.

As for those of us on the Pro-Israel side, we did not make much use of bullhorns, so there was no chanting of slogans. At one point some young fellows led us in a chorus of "Give peace a chance" which was charming, then we started "Hava Nagila", but somehow the group did not want to sing together.

The Palestinian Nazis? A couple of young men across the street, both dressed in the Palestinian colors and draped with Arafat's trademark checkered Kaffiyeh, were standing on newsracks and giving Nazi salutes. I don't think they were aware of the history of Palestinian support for the Nazis, documented in Dershowitz's The Case for Israel. I think they were just taunting some of the folks on our side of the street.

It was offensive just the same.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Bride, originally uploaded by efroymson.

The Becker-Sommers wedding was Sunday night. It was a bit too hot for me, but there was plenty of dancing. That is my cousin Liz in the middle, I think it is the back of her husband's head.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Leo had his Birthday Party today. He really enjoyed the cupcake.