John Ross

SF Stories: John Ross

RONCO Y DULCE

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46TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL Coming out of the underground

On the BART escalator,

The Mission sky

Is washed by Autumn,

The old men and their garbage bags

Are clustered in the battered plaza

We once named for Cesar Augusto Sandino.

Behind me down below

In the throat of the Earth

A rough bracero sings

Of his comings and goings

In a voice as ronco y dulce

As the mountains of Michoacan and Jalisco

For the white zombies

Careening downtown

To the dot coms.Read more »

Torture: The new national pastime

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SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 6th)  -- The return of liver cancer has afforded me an unexpected opportunity to contemplate the National Pastime. 

As I emerged from a bout of chemotherapy in late September, the San Francisco Giants were locked in a neck-and-neck drawdown with the San Diego Padres for a post-season play-off spot and Baghdad-by-the-Bay was abuzz with pennant fever. Read more »

Bread and Circuses: Mexico and the World Cup

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MEXICO CITY (June 11th) -- The Caliente Sports Book down the street is buzzing with betters studying dog and horse races, Major League Baseball, even golf, on the multiple screens. Of particular interest are those channels running wrap-ups of the afternoon match between Mexico and 2006 World Cup champion Italy, from which the national team emerged victorious in a final prelim before this year's edition of the Copa del Mundo gets underway later this week.Read more »

In Mexico, turtles and oil privatization

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MEXICO CITY (June 3rd) -- The turtles of Caribbean Mexico are an ancient race. Their ancestors paddled with dinosaurs and prehistoric fish. Kemp's Ridley turtles were burying their eggs in Gulf Coast sanctuaries countless millennia before the Olmecs, Mexico's matrix civilization, installed their mysterious giant heads on the Veracruz plain. The presence of turtles in indigenous iconography is evidenced by artifacts displayed in anthropological museums in Mexico City and Jalapa Veracruz. The 20th Century naturalists recorded "arribos" ("arrivals") of tens of thousands of Kemp's Ridley females at Rancho Nuevo beach Tamaulipas; with few exceptions, Kemp's Ridleys (named for an amateur turtle-ologist and the smallest and rarest of all sea turtles) nest only at Rancho Nuevo and Padre Island, Texas.

But for Gulf waters, turtles are like canaries in the coalmines. The 1979 blowout of Ixtoc 1, a Mexican National Petroleum Company (PEMEX) platform off the southern state of Tabasco, gushed uncontrollably for nine months. Read more »

The feminization of Mexican agriculture

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SANTA CRUZ TANACO (May 20th) - When I first settled into this tiny Purepecha Indian village high in the Meseta Tarasca of west-central Michoacan state 50 years ago, few women tilled the land. Tending the “milpa" (corn patch) was strictly a man's work. The men ploughed the fields and planted in the spring and the wives and daughters would help to weed ("barbechar") and glean in the harvest -- but it was the men who strapped on the "tchundi" basket as they moved up and down the rows, snapping off the big ears of maiz to be sold in the markets of neighboring cities.

While the men lorded it over the corn patch, women had dominion over the home and the children. They cared for the kids and the chickens and prepared the meals. At mid-day, they wrapped up fresh, warm tortillas in colorful "servietas" and carried them out to the fields to feed their husbands.    

Only two women in Tanaco actually worked their own "parcelas" (plots.)  Dona Teresa Garcia had a handful of fields scattered up and down the valley she had inherited from her murdered husband and many sons to work them, and although she was known to get her hands dirty, she was more an overseer and administrator.
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John Ross: To stop is to die

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Editors note: John Ross is finishing up a book tour across the United States, and sending us his impressions of Obamalandia. You can read some of his previous posts here, here and here.

  

I. Baltimore/Washington

 

The Amtrak rumbles into the back end of Baltimore past block after block of abandoned, boarded-up row houses ripe for burning. This city of such magnificent renegades as Edgar Allen Poe, John Wilkes Booth, and Billie Holliday is mapped by grimy pocket ghettoes that made Baltimore a perfect stage-set for "The Wire." When contrasted against the gleaming, refurbished downtown, these crime-scene neighborhoods incubate urban uprising.   Read more »

John Ross: Time travelling down the Mississippi

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 Editors note: John Ross is wandering the country on a book tour, sharing his observations of Obamalandia, 2010. You can read his previous dispatches here and here  

I. Role models

 

When I finally made Chicago, they were all waiting for me down there two blocks south of the end of the Blue Line, through the wrought-iron gates of Forest Home Cemetery, past the ostentatious mausoleums of fabulous gypsies and clustered around the heroic monument to the Haymarket Martyrs: Red Emma, looking a little dingy these days; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the Rebel Girl; William Z. Foster, the CPUSA's most rigid ideologue and the leaders of its black sector Henry Winston and William Patterson; the anarchist femme fatal Voltairine de Cleyres; hobo-ologist Ben Reitman; and, of course my personal role model, Lucy Parsons, who outlived her Albert (hung by the State for the Haymarket frame-up) by 50 years, traveling this poisoned landscape from sea to stinking sea speechifying to the masses and hawking her incendiary pamphlets to make ends meet. A single wilted rose adorned the soft granite pillow that bears her name and dates.

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Ross on the road: The great white north

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Editors note: Guardian correspondent John Ross is traveling across the nation pomoting his new book, El Monstruo -- Dread & Redemption in Mexico City, and is sending us dispatches from the road. This week: Twin Cities, Madison and Northern Michigan.

 1. BLUE IGLOO

As I deplaned the Southwest Shuttle from Denver wrapped in my blue igloo, a puffed up garment that doubles my skeletal girth, a sudden spasm of panic punched me in the gut. Had I slept through my stop and disembarked in Fargo, North Dakota instead? Read more »

John Ross: The damaged spine of America

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I am on a low-rent book tour with my new cult classic El Monstruo - Dread & Redemption In Mexico City.  For the next three months, I will stumble across this land from sea to stinking sea probing the underbelly of Obama's America.  The findings will be posted on these pages.


LAS CRUCES N.M. -- The snow was already dusting the Organ Mountains fringing this high desert town, promising a hard winter further up the spine of Obama's America. I ride the Mexican bus (officially doing business as the El Paso-L.A, Limousine Express) when I ply the back roads of the southwest. Greyhound, with its stern rules and regulations and surly drivers who threaten their cargos with summary expulsion for minor infractions, doesn't much inspire me these days.  

 

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Behind the Mexican drug war

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Editors note: The killings of three U.S. consular employees in Ciudad Juarez has brought increased press attention in this country to the violence of Mexico’s drug gangs.  Our Mexico City correspondent, John Ross, reports on the background story.

MEXICO CITY - Last July, in a meticulously planned raid reminiscent of the classic guerrilla jail breakouts that are legend in Latin America, a commando force of 20 heavily armed fighters freed 53 comrades from a prison in the northern state of Zacatecas. Were the perpetrators in fact guerrilleros from some as-yet unknown revolutionary foco or narcos emulating a guerrilla-style jailbreak intent on freeing their own?

Read more »