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MEXICO: Puebla

Mexico City College, with which I was once affiliated, moved to Puebla and became the Universidad de las Américas (UDLA). My affiliation resulted in linking UDLA with the Hoover Institution and with Stanford's Overseas Studies Program. Hoover Fellows and Stanford students go to UDLA each year. WAIS pays special attention to Mexico because it looms large in US international relations. It seems appropriate to select Puebla for a case study. Since WAIS has many members at UDLA, I will ask them to keep us informed.

When I first went to Puebla in 1944, it was a sleepy town, linked to Mexico City by a derelict railroad. Since then, like many Mexican cities, it has boomed, and now is a modern city with a freeway to the capital.. It has its own airport. The city, a Spanish creation, is a splendid example of colonial architecture. At nearby Cholula, when UDLA is located, there are impressive pre-colonial ruins. Now there is an important industrial suburb. Puebla is indeed the city of the three cultures.

For years it was the feud of Manuel Bartlett, once Minister of the Interior, then Governor of Puebla state, and most recently Senator. He is one of the governing PRI's so-called "dinosaurs", a term which is a gross example of ageism. Despite a variety of changes against him, I viewed him with my usual benevolence, but he has fallen from grace as the result of the PRI's behavior at the session at which President Ernesto Zedillo gave his final state of the nation address. I have the highest regard for Zedillo, and his speech was excellent, but PRI members sat on their hands, resentful that he had not rigged the elections to keep the party in power. When Bartlett was asked to explain the lack of applause for Zedillo, he replied "he didn't deserve it." We would like to have an update on Puebla politics.

Puebla, with its great cathedral and many churches, has been a center of clericalism and of support for PAN. Anticlericals use any occasion to discredit the Church. Now it was the 32nd anniversary of the "Canoa massacre". San Miguel Canoa is a village northeast of Puebla. It does not appear on detailed maps of Mexico because it is so small. Detailed tourist maps show it because it is at the foot of the Malinche volcano in a national park. The village priest branded students at the University of Puebla as communists and aroused the peasants, who beat up the students, killing some. The story was told in an anticlerical film simply called "Canoa." Televisa ran segments of it and interviewed some survivors who described the horror of it. Only one person said the film exaggerated.

On top of this there was the scandal of young Mexican priest in Rome, who was engaged in homosexual activities and robberies. When he was murdered the Church disowned him. Now his alleged murderer, an Italian homosexual, came to trial, providing another item for Mexican TV news.

Ronald Hilton - 9/15/00