The Tragedy of Mexico

Riches Unrealized

Twenty-eight years ago, in the summer of 1980, I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, to take a job teaching English and journalism at a university there.  The job ended just as soon as it began: On the first day of classes, the university, a private institution with connections to the country’s thriving neofascist movement and, thence, to the central government, closed to protest the city government’s having named a nearby street in honor of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, a self-professed communist then seven-years dead.  When an administrator came around asking that I sign an oath of allegiance to the university, I refused, explaining that my country’s constitution forbade such inscriptions.  The look on his face suggested that I was right to pack my books and leave at once, and so I did.

Now jobless, I walked several miles back to the small farm where I had found an apartment to rent and told the proprietor that it might have to become available once again.  I was unhappy, not least because it was a lovely place, a huge, airy L-shaped suite of rooms on the second floor above a granary, its wide terrace overhung by half a dozen avocado trees available for the plucking whenever I wished, and it was cheap, $100 per month, about $250 in today’s dollars.  I explained the day’s events and my newly unemployed status.

“Don’t worry,” said the farmer.  “We’ll...

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