Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Postdata on the "Plan for Human Reordering"

Municipal authorities are taking some heat for the alleged discussions of social cleansing in preparation for the Panamerican Games at a recent meeting. The so-called "Plan de Reordenamiento Humano," which sounds like something out of a twisted communist regime or dystopian science fiction novel, has given the opposition parties all the necessary fodder for an absolute field day in the press. Criticism of municipal authorities has run the predictable gamut from outrage at the injustice of such a plan, discussions of its pragmatic absurdity (as it would be pretty tough to actually accomplish such a feat in the historic center without really getting into some human rights hot water), and even a crudely drawn parallel with the Nazis. Ouch. Not a good PR day for the city's current administration.
Meanwhile, the incident has drawn attention to the plight of the city's most vulnerable citizens (and keep in mind that this is only about the city center of Guadalajara proper, and tells us nothing about the conditions that so many of the poorest citizens of the greater metropolitan zone experience in the colonias that surround GDL). Jalisco's DIF office, Mexico's main social services agency, claims that it has recently removed 300 families from the city center (one hopes, to some sort of shelter or subsidized housing) but that 350 remain on the streets. Given that those are families, that's a lot of homeless people for a city this size. And for those of us living in the city, although it's merely anecdotal, the increase in window washers and street venders at many major intersections has been palpable in recent months as Mexico's economy continues to struggle. Ironically, the games themselves must be generating a fair amount of local employment, as the city is absolutely torn to pieces with beautifcation and repaving projects in preparation for the event. Even under the best of circumstances, it would be hard to hide the fact that Mexico's index of inequality continues to be a scandal in the hemisphere--and Jalisco and its capital are no exception. (See "No se escondera a nadie: alcalde" and "Niegan "limpia social" para mejorar imagen durante los Juegos")
Oh, and by the way, a national survey on discrimination just found that in a society that is in general intolerant of such things, Guadalajara is the least tolerant city in the nation with respect to adoption by gay couples. (see details on the survey here)

A little pre-Panamerican Games social cleansing and homophobia

While US culture has experienced a rather extended phase of political correctness that now approaches the comedic at its most extreme, Mexico could still use a course in the basics. It should come as no surprise that municipal authorities in GDL might very well be discussing a little social cleansing in preparation for the upcoming Panamerican Games. Sex workers, the window washers who swarm the cars at major intersections, and the homeless were allegedly topics of discussion, which should not surprise anyone, as you would no doubt find that similar conversations have taken place amongst those in charge of hosting such events in virtually any city in the world. It's a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless, that a city might seek to conceal these particular members of its citizenry from the gaze of outsiders, as they call attention to the uglier side of Mexico's socioeconomic contours. One additional group was the topic of much concern as well: Guadalajara's gay population. Apparently, preventing any public displays of affection among gay men and women is a matter of public import, in yet another striking example of this city's conservatism. While Aristoteles Sandoval, the mayor of GDL, denied any and all of the above and argued that GDL is a tolerant city, officials interviewed by Milenio journalists suggested otherwise. "Mi política y mi filosofía es de respeto, es de tolerancia, sí es de un orden, pero el orden no es con represión, [...] siempre he sido muy respetuoso de las preferencias sexuales. No será [...] Guadalajara quien reprenda o reprima, sí el que ordene," responded Sandoval. He'll go far if he keeps that kind of politicaly artistry up when faced with tricky questions from the press. (see the article here: "Denuncian plan de "limpieza social" del Centro para Juegos")
In an unrelated but nonetheless relevant incident, if only because it again illustrates the climate in the region toward gay people, the head of Colima's Human Right's Commission (CDHEC), Roberto Chapula de la Mora, declared that the Colimense government is full of closeted gays. It was actually said in a much more colorful way that defies translation without offending both myself and my readers, but you can take a stab at it on your own: "hay mucho puto tapado en el gobierno, que se toman dos, tres cervezas y piden hombre; empiezan de compadres y terminan de comadres." This tidbit was offered in an interview with a local paper just days before the celebration yesterday (or non-celebration, I would imagine, in this town), May 17th, of the International Day Against Homophobia and the story was picked up by the latest edition of Proceso (""Hay mucho puto tapado en el gobierno", declara Ombudsman de Colima"). How comfortable would one feel reporting an incident of homophobia to this agency after hearing that from its director?