Wednesday, June 27, 2012

She's a grand ol' flag....

Flap, flap, flies the flag against the cool Xalapa, Veracruz, breeze.  I snapped this photo a few weeks ago while strolling around this pleasant hilly city, having encountered a police awards ceremony in the square.  

The image in the white part of the flag has an interesting story behind it.  According to Aztec legend, the Mexica tribe left its mythical place of origin, known as Aztlan, in the north of Mexico.  After roaming the desert for about 200 years, the Mexicas (who later became known as the Aztecs) looked out over lake Texcoco, in central Mexico.  On an island in the middle of the lake, they spied an eagle, holding a snake, perched on top of a nopal cactus.  They took this to be the sign from the god Huitzilopochtli that they were seeking in order to found the city of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).  

Established in about 1325, it was known as the "place of the nopal fruits", and despite its humble-sounding name, became a large, politically complex city that rivaled others around the world during that time period.  Centered in Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs conquered surrounding tribes and exacted tributes in the form of money, food, political prisoners, and the like.  In 1519, Hernan Cortes, mistaken for a manifestation of the revered Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, arrived from Spain and took advantage of some of the smaller tribes' discontentment with Aztec rule.  Forming strategic alliances, he conquered Tenochtitlan in 1521.  Many, many things happened over the next couple hundred years and the country obtained independence from the Spanish in 1810.

Elections are coming up on July 1.  There are three main political parties in Mexico: the PRI, PAN, and PRD, with the Nueva Alianza slowly gaining influence as well.  The PRI ruled the country for 71 years until 2000 when Vicente Fox (of the PAN) was elected for a six-year term, followed by the current president, Felipe Calderon in 2006, also of the PAN.  Mexican presidents serve only one term, after which they receive a lifetime monthly pension of roughly US $19,000 per month.  Hot election topics include the six-year-long war against the drug cartels along the northern border with the US, and the states of Guerrero and Michoacan, and Veracruz, as well as the widespread poverty and lack of infrastructure throughout much of the country, despite Mexico's high per-capita domestic product.  Environmental degradation and systemic problems in health care and education also concern the populace as it enters the voting booths in a few days.  There have been many efforts to combat pervasive political corruption in recent years, and as the candidates close their campaigns and the "ley seca" (no alcohol sold within three days of the election) approaches, locals worry about election fraud and possible political unrest as the results are made public.  We shall see...

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