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MEXICO: How much poverty?

Linda Nyquist has devoted much of her life to helping the Mexican rural poor. She disputes the statement that they are now much less of a problem and that subcomandante Marcos is a phony: "Why is Marcos' background an issue here? Can anyone say that the people he represents do not need representation? The living conditions in the highland (and lowland) Maya area of Mexico (and Guatemala) are atrocious. The people are fragmented for a number of reasons, many cultural, but also having to do with language differences, geography, latifundismo and a host of social ills too numerous to name here. They are absolutely marginalized economically. One doesn't have to agree with Marcos' platform, or even his methods, to recognize that these indigenous peoples desperately need help, which they had not received and probably WERE NOT GOING to receive had he not taken up their cause. "

Linda has worked with and for the Indians, and what she says is correct for the area she describes. The progress to which the postings referred is largely confined to northern Mexico. When I first visited Mexico is the 40s, the misery caused by the Revolution was still evident. The moral is that revolutions cause wide and protracted poverty. Things slowly improved, but there was still a lot of misery to which the Mexican middle classes were blind. Around Guadalajara it was painfully obvious. At parties in upper and middle class homes, people denied that the poverty existed. I was so incensed that I took some of them in a tour in my car, and showed them the destitute villages and the desperate peasants. I was shocked by the response of the group: "Well, they will have their reward in Heaven." The people who made the comment were certainly not destined to go there.

In recent years, Mexico north of Mexico City has changed beyond recognition. Guadalajara is a thriving community, and places like Querétaro, which were dusty dumps in the forties, are now thriving towns. Despite this transformation, the amount of urban poverty in and around Mexico City is still intolerable. Whether Fox can really change the city is an open question. We wish him well.

Ronald Hilton - 12/15/00