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Teaching English in Queretaro, Mexico

The Awful Truth

Thursday - 21 Feb 2002
Qro , Qro - Mexico

I saw this guy!

On the television

Last night I came home from class at about 9:30 PM, like normal. First I changed clothes, then Martha had made some very tasty tostadas, and I munched on those. (Martha cooks all the food for the house. She's very good.) Then, having nothing else to do but not ready to go to sleep just yet, I went to watch some TV. I flipped channels for a while. I saw part of some movie with David Bowie in it, where he works at a restaurant with these two women, one of whom is an aspiring escape artist. I had no idea what movie it was at the time. I later found out it was "The Linguini Incident."

Eventually I flipped to a channel that was showing "The Awful Truth", which is a show starring Michael Moore, the liberal anti-corporate guy who brought us the film "Roger and Me" about the closing of the General Motors plant in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, to be replaced by a plant in Mexico somewhere.

In Mexico the minimum wage is around 50 pesos per day. The exchange rate is 9 pesos to 1 dollar, by the way. Not to worry, the administration of President Fox recently increased the minimum wage, by 2 pesos per day! (Can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?) At the same time, they introduced a large range of new taxes, which have made my host's house payments effectively double. Everyone here groans about the new taxes. I brought up the subject in my 7AM conversation class. Everyone moaned when I first mentioned it. Then I asked, "do you think that the taxes are necessary?" Everyone seemed to say yes to that. Then I asked what the money was being used for. They told me that the president and government officials are keeping it for themselves. (?!) Its not that Fox is any worse than any other president, its almost expected that officials will be corrupt. Actually, Fox is the first president in 80 years to be elected from a different party than the "revolution" party. Angel told me something about the money buying very expensive towels for Fox and his wife.

That is a good example of the attitude of Mexicans about corruption: everyone knows about it and its just accepted as a given. From my perspective, Mexico is poor, corrupt and disorganized, but not that bad. Other places I have been are much worse, namely the Dominican Republic and Senegal. The people in Senegal are aware of it, too, but its funny how self-conscious Mexicans are about some of their cultural norms. I canīt tell you how many times someone has answered one of my questions, (for example, shouldnt these students have their own books? Dont you need to be 18 to get into that club? Isn't it illegal to drink beer in the car?) ending the sentence with, "yes, but, this is Mexico." I think this attitude exists because they are located right next to USA, so they are constantly comparing themselves to it, or to their impression of it. In a wierd way, the USA is worse though! We like to pretend that everything works just fine, that corruption and poverty donīt exist there. Here at least they are honest with themselves about it.

OK, back to Michael Moore. He also had a TV show called "TV Nation" which most of you probably know about. It had a short run on some TV network. I really liked TV Nation. I once went to a screening at the Oak Street Theater in Minneapolis of another film by Michael Moore called, "The Big One". Michael Moore was there, and he answered questions from the crowd afterwards. One thing he talked about was plans to make another TV show, similar to TV Nation, but he said that they were having trouble finding a channel in the USA that would carry it. Other countries, England for example, had expressed interest. He said that he would only go ahead with it if it could be aired in the USA. Well, the only time I have ever seen The Awful Truth in the USA has been on DVD. (thanks Terry!) Evidently Mexico is willing air it, however. I have seen it more than once on television here, usually late at night. Last night was such an occasion.

The issue of this particular episode was abuse of Mexican workers in my very own hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota! Very appropriate for me to be watching, I thought to myself. What a proud moment that was! (Note the sarcasm. However, I do feel that maybe in a small way, by being here and teaching English, I am helping to counteract the shit like this that goes on.) And of course, in the end, Michael Moore and his crew stick it to the Holiday Inn, by hiring private health and safety inspectors to come in (who found numerous violations), by reporting to the INS a British employee of the Holiday Inn's Atlanta-based parent company, and making the manager of the Minneapolis Holiday Inn Express look like a jerk by exposing the fact that he only called the INS on the Mexicans AFTER they attempted to unionize.

Anyway, I looked up some information about the issue on Michael Moore's website. The information they had follows. One more bit of sad irony: The most popular hotel in Queretaro is none other than a Holiday Inn . . .

And this guy was in Minneapolis!

Holiday Inn Express, Minneapolis

From this site:

A Victory for the Holiday Inn Workers, Thanks to You (Now Let's Run a Ficus for Congress!)

April 26, 2000

Dear Friends,

We won!

Not only has Elian Gonzales been reunited with his father (my only criticism of the raid and that photo on Saturday is that the gun wasn't big enough), but our Mexican friends in Minneapolis who were being deported for starting a union have won their fight to stay in the United States!

At the INS hearing yesterday, after being deluged with thousands of your letters, plus the hard work of a lot of good people in the Twin Cities, the immigration judge ruled in favor of the 8 Mexican housekeepers, declaring that they should be made "legal."

You have no idea how stunning this decision is. Last week, after interviewing the people at the INS in Minneapolis, it was clear that these immigrants (who were being punished because they successfully formed a union at the Holiday Inn where they worked) were going to lose. That is why I wrote to ask you to flood the INS and the Justice Department with e-mail. But within 24 hours of my letter to you, those two federal agencies became quite busy with the nuttiness in Miami. I figured that our letters to them would get lost in all the distraction.

But they didn't. By yesterday, the INS had received tens of thousands of e-mails, eloquent pleas from those of you who asked that these 8 Mexican workers be given the same chance most of our ancestors got when they came to America.

Well, it worked. I can't thank you enough for taking a few minutes to lend a hand. I continue to be amazed at the power of the Internet. A few years ago, we never would have been able to respond so quickly to a problem, let alone even hear about it. We must try to keep the Internet in the hands of the people and free of government and corporate control. This is a powerful tool.

The Mexicans have received what is called "deferred status," meaning they can stay and work legally until such time they can be upgraded to perhaps a green card or even citizenship. This is a huge victory. Thanks again to all of you plus the lawyers and church people in Minneapolis who gave their time.

You can see the whole story -- plus how we punished Holiday Inn in our own "special way" -- on an upcoming episode of "The Awful Truth" (which premieres in three weeks on Wednesday, May 17, 10pm ET/PT on Bravo).

And, speaking of "The Awful Truth," we are holding a press conference to formally announce the "candidate" we are running for Congress -- a Ficus plant. That's right. We are running a potted plant for the U.S. House of Representatives. We believe a Ficus will do less harm than many politicians. Since word leaked out about us trying to get a Ficus on the ballot, over 20 other people around the country have also announced campaigns to get Ficuses elected in their districts.

If you would like to get on board the potted plant bandwagon and run a write-in campaign in your district, please read the press release. We are shooting all this for "The Awful Truth," and it is our hope to see Ficuses and other houseplants giving incumbent Congressmen who face little or no opposition a run for their money. 95% of all incumbents get re-elected and many of them run unopposed. It is not healthy in a democracy to hold elections with only one name on the ballot. We believe the country would be better off with a Ficus tree sitting in Congress than some of these clowns. So, check out our website and send us a photo or video of the houseplant you are running for Congress and we'll put it on our show.

Thanks again for your help!


Michael Moore

Another weekend
  Joseph M. - Bio and Journals
  Teaching English in Queretaro, Mexico - Intro Average Rating of 128 Viewers
Chapters of Teaching English in Queretaro, Mexico
  Starting out
  More pictures, etc.
  A typical day
  An interesting weekend
  Museum Photos
  Another weekend
  The Awful Truth
  San Miguel de Allende
  Adios Joseph
  The best part

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