I arrived home last night from a six week stay in Mexico City in a very negative mood. If you have been following this blog, you know that, even though I managed to do some of my usual travelogue posts, this trip was nothing like my usual stays in Mexico. Although I cannot claim to have experienced the level of stress, grief and depression suffered by Alejandro and his family during the illness and loss of his mother, as an adopted member of the family, I definitely shared in those emotions. I certainly am glad to have been there to lend moral support to the family, to help where I could, and to bond more closely with them. But it was definitely not a happy trip.
I still love Mexico, and I plan to return in April. However my view of the country was much affected by my frame of mind.
First of all, the things that Alejando told me have left me with nothing but contempt for the public health care system in Mexico. Yes, we gringos who travel and live in Mexico can take advantage of very affordable (for us), first rate, private medical facilities. But from the experiences that Alejandro's mother endured, I can say that I would not send a dog to a public hospital in Mexico. In early January, a few days before I arrived down there, Alejandro took his mother to the emergency room. In addition to her kidney disease which had been progressively getting worse, she was hemorrhaging. This eighty year old lady sat in a chair in a cold hallway for ten hours waiting for a bed. According to Alejandro, some people wait for days. Several days after being admitted she developed a nasty bedsore because she had been left to lie in her own urine. It was an exceptionally cold January in Mexico, and hospital room was unheated. Alejandro's mother was constantly suffering from the cold, but there were not enough blankets for everyone. And family members were absolutely forbidden from bringing in blankets or warm clothing. There were, I am sure, many dedicated and caring staff members, but they were so overworked that they could not properly care for everyone. An insider told Alejandro not to file any complaints, because there were some "very bad people" in the hospital who would take it out on his mother. It is no wonder that she wanted to return home to die.
I also noticed the damage from last September's earthquake more than on my previous trip. There are many buildings which are still standing but which are damaged. You notice these buildings... the businesses on the ground floor are shuttered, and offices or apartments above appear vacant, and vandals quickly move in and cover the structures with graffiti. The government has yet to determine which structures need to demolished. Five months after the quake, many people are living in limbo. Their homes are still standing, but they don't know if they are habitable.
This summer there will be a presidential election in Mexico. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is nearing the end of his six year term and is dismally unpopular. Peña Nieto is not allowed to run for a second term, but, even so, his political party, rotten with corruption, is facing well-deserved defeat. The problem is that none of the other parties offer a good alternative. The leader in the polls, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is a populist whom many fear will turn out to be a Mexican Hugo Chávez.
So it is that I return to the Disunited States of America, a nation headed by an incompetent, lying, egotistical, morally bankrupt, racist "pendejo"... a country whose electoral system is being subverted by Russia... a nation where young people are gunned down in their schools... where the NRA fills the coffers of politicians... and where right-wingers call students protesting gun violence puppets of the liberal media.
Perhaps Alejandro was right when he joked that he and I should move to Switzerland, herd cows, and make cheese.