Uber (without the umlaut/diaeresis) may not be “over all” but is certainly a symbol of current economic fusion–and political controversy–in Mexico.
After several satisfying rides in Uber (cabs) in Mexico City over this past weekend (plus a few in traditional taxis) I can conclude, without a doubt, fusion and globalization are “alive and well” in Mexico.
The fusion of Uber’s contemporary approach with a more traditional transportation system works well; there is more choice. Mexico leads the way in fusing the future with the past. The United States is quite lucky to have such a progressive neighbor. We could take some advice from Mexico. I discovered it long ago, during my research and teaching in Mexico; I reiterate this wisdom after every trip south.
More evidence of social-cultural fusion: my family just returned from a lovely wedding for a niece in the mountains above Mexico City. Los Hijos de Frida, an innovative band, played Latin music, and key compositions by Queen, Prince, Beatles, but with a Latin beat and with Mexican instruments—marimba, acordeón, maracas, güiro (Los Hijos’ version of “The Wall,” quite famous). The international/multicultural fusion of the music and of the entire wedding fiesta, unmistakable, and philosophically gratifying.
Down from the mountain, and back to Uber: The chauffeurs are very careful and courteous, following the much observed “uno y uno” rule in Mexico. But they are also assertive, as are so many Mexican drivers. We took several Ubers (no tips required) in which the drivers shared their profession with family—perhaps father in the day, tioin afternoon, son at night. Vehicles were new but, following tradition, many sported a rosary or a Virgin of Guadalupe hanging from the mirror.
They hope this religious assurance helps them with traffic and in their dispute with rival taxi drivers, who have mounted protests to multinationals, like Uber, undercutting their business. Long, loud parades in the past added to the tensions and forced the whole megalopolis (only 20 million) to take sides. Uber drivers thrive but are kept under scrutiny. They may pick up and deliver to Benito Juarez, the bustling, attractive, growing international airport, but must hide their GPS/phones on arriving. (Since there is no identification on their cars, they appear as prosperous citizens or tourists.)
The new airport–apparently much needed–is in limbo. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the new president who takes over December 1, promised to cancel its on-going construction. One result (besides creating a drop in the pesoand consternation among international business invested in its success) has been massive protests from workers’ families who currently depend on those salaries. The irony is workers and citizens on all sides of the issue, as with Uber disputes, often share the same economic dilemmas and similar religious icons and hopes. Will the Virgin help them all?
Actually, the Virgin IS helping, in a way. MORENA, AMLO’s party, is an acronym for the party of renewal; but it also refers to la Virgen Morena, the nationalistic/religious symbol of Mexico (also an alleged reincarnation of the Aztec Mother Goddess). This fusion has, obviously, been successful over the centuries. But whether that symbol and López Obrador’s big win is enough to sustain his opposition to NAIM (the new international airport) is debatable.
Federico Reyes Heroles (“Farónico,” Excelsior,) and other pundits and politicos are fiercely opposed to the new president and almost any of his plans. José Woldenberg, director of the progressive magazine, Nexos, calls him a “demagogue.” He claims “the cancellation will be much more expensive than finishing the airport project, already about one-third complete; he is probably right about that and it is likely some sort of compromise will result.
Yet, AMLO himself, despite policy and spending differences, could, in many ways, be termed a fusionist. Formerly a supposed “leftist,” he now seems more pragmatic. He promised economic change—to slash government workers’ posts and salaries. His promise of more help for the poor is now, he claims, to be accomplished while maintaining “fiscal responsibility” (Earl Anthony Wayne, former Ambassador to Mexico, Rio Grande Guardian, Nov. 13, 2018). AMLO’s cancellation of the airport project seems to be an extension of that hope, as well as a sign of “keeping promises.”
Some major experts believe AMLO will be highly successful, since the “opposition is shattered.” His party (MORENA) has a near “super-majority” in Congress and enough State governments to change the Constitution (Duncan Wood, Rio Grande Guardian, Nov. 9, 2018). Except for doubts regarding the ability of any President at present to curb cartel violence, many believe his “sexenio” (six-year term) will be a historically dramatic one.
I hope he starts the clean-up here in the north of Mexico; why? because “Tamaulipas es el estado más letal…” (Ignacio Alzaga, Milenio, p. 1, Nov. 13, 2018). “Lethal” problems and areas of Mexico may need the help of the U.S.–not with insulting barbed wire and troops on our southern border, but with policies slowing the export of guns and the import of drugs. If we live to see that day, it would be a “win-win” for both countries.
The idea, again, is fusion, as with Uber and music, economics and culture. There should be a new beginning, not a “Mexico Uber Alles,” much less a “U.S. Uber Alles.” There should be a fusion of ideas inside Mexico and between the U.S. and Mexico; that is, the goal should be an “agreement to disagree” when necessary, looking to “un acuerdo parejo,” an agreement fair and equal, based on a determination to solve common problems for the good of all.