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The old WORLD AFFARIS REPORT: Mexico



Those who have read the WAIS home page will know the history of the old World Affairs Report (WAR). Started in 1970 at the height of the Cold War, it covered international affairs from Soviet sources, principally Pravda. It gave the Soviet line as a hint of possible actions. It contained valuable information, often not available in the Western press. Some of it affected Stanford and me directly.

In addition to Bolivar House, I founded at Stanford the Casa Espaņola, a residence where Spanish was spoken. The director was a cultured Mexican woman who taught Spanish. Without a word to me, the Stanford administration closed down the apolitical Casa Espaņola and later replaced it with Zapata House, with a distinctly leftist character. I have never discovered who was behind these actions.

Zapata House was run by a respected chicana woman. She moved in with her husband and children. The husband proclaimed himself Painter in Residence, although he never had an official title. He "decorated" Zapata House with pseudo Diego Rivers murals depicting the Hoover Institution as a den of despicable reactionary capitalists. I wrote a piece saying that it was fine to criticize the ideas Hoover stood for but not to depart from the norms of civil intellectual discourse.

Reading Pravda, I was surprised to find a lead editorial praising the Zapata House muralist and describing him as a fine American revolutionary painter who had proved his ideas by vandalism in a San Mateo Bank. This story never appeared in the local press, and I knew nothing about it, but the local Pravda correspondent was clearly in the know.

Then in Mexico I visited Morelia and stayed in the beautiful Hotel Virrey Mendoza. The University of Morelia had been taken over by revolutionary students, like the National University in Mexico City (UNAM) was recently. Anarchist red and black flags decorated the buildings. I went there and talked with a student leader. He was crude, almost illiterate, and his great aim was to get control of university funds. At night it was difficult to sleep because students took over the lobby of the hotel and noisily banged out music on the piano there. The frightened manager did not dare ask them to leave. It was a telling proof of what can happen to rational discourse when such students take over a university. At Stanford, during the troubles, there were similar student leaders. One came to my office and announced "When we take over the university..."

In many countries there are students trying to take over universities. I wrote in the Stanford Daily an article about my experiences in Morelia and warning of such threats to universities. In reply, the Zapata House painter wrote a long letter denouncing me as a McCarthyite: In the Spanish Department, with which I was affiliated, there were a number of chicano instructors. He viewed himself as their leader, although he had no affiliation with the department, and got them to sign his letter, which the Stanford Daily published. Not wishing to be affiliated with a department in which this spirit prevailed, I broke my ties with it.

With the end of the Soviet Union, the focus of WAR naturally changed, and began covering the world from a more general perspective. Realizing that Mexico would now be the great challenge for the United States, I laid special, emphasis on it in our online journal, and established relations between Stanford and the University of the Americans (UDLA), where I once taught. This led to the special ties between UDLA and Hoover, ties which are now the concern primarily of Paul Rich, who teaches at UDLA and spends the summers at Hoover. At the WAIS conference on July, 2001, he will be in charge of the session on Mexico. The other outcome of my ties with UDLA has been the establishing of a Stanford "overseas" (!) campus there. By a happy arrangement, each Stanford student shares a room there with a Mexican student.

In view of these developments, it seemed to me inappropriate that a Zapatista house should represent Mexico at Stanford. I wrote to President Gerhard Casper proposing a change in the name. He referred the proposal to the housing committee, where it died a natural death. Oh well!

Now back to the old WAR files, of which there are no less than 10, 945: a large and important data base. It had originally gone out over the DIALOG network, but, after the end of the Soviet Union and therefore of the old WAR, the tapes were turned over by me to Stanford. They were made available through Folio, which only those with a Stanford e-mail address can use. To make them available to the world at large, Robert Buergi has just completed the big job of putting them again in another format so that they are now available as part of the regular WAIS file. In the nest few days they will be indexed, and thus easily searchable. They are of great value to those working in the 1970 to 1990 period, especially in areas of Soviet concern. WAIS owes an immense debt to Robert Buergi, one of our Technical Associates, without whose disinterested support our activities would be crippled. Have a Merry Christmas, Rob!

Ronald Hilton - 12/14/00


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