This post has been updated.
Massive protests continue throughout Mexico, as they have since gasoline prices leapt at least 20 percent overnight due to deregulation at the beginning of the year. That has, in turn, made food costs spike. Protesters in Baja also are demonstrating against the Ley de Agua, the statewide water privatization law that would further hike the cost of water, high taxes, a minimum wage that remains punishingly low, a rapidly weakening peso, and widespread corruption and violence.
The gasolinazo protests have roiled Mexico, but the El Chaparral border crossing has become an unexpected flashpoint in the demonstrations. David Maung chronicled last weekend’s protests for Voice here.
The United States has repeatedly closed the crossing at Mexico’s behest in response to crowds gathering there and taking over the checkpoints to let cars into the country without inspections. Smaller groups have also converged at the Otay crossing.
On Sunday, a planned Megamarcha found thousands of protesters in the streets throughout Baja California. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 gathered in the usually sleepy city of Mexicali and at least 15,000 in Tijuana converged at the El Chaparral vehicle point of entry.
The protests in Baja have remained mostly peaceful, despite reports of violence (mostly by police) in other parts of the country. One notable exception took place in Rosarito, when several police officers were injured last week by a truck that drove into a roadblock. (Police blamed the protesters; however the driver of the truck was not immediately identified.) Police also were caught on tape badly beating protesters — and assaulting journalists — at demonstrations throughout Baja California.
Protesters say that although they have been accused of violence and vandalism, their goal is to get their message across peacefully:
Update: After weeks of protests, Baja California’s governor, Francisco “Kiko” Vega de Lamadrid, has walked back the decision to privatize the state’s water supply. The decision to ask Congress to kill the controversial law came after fierce opposition and huge demonstrations, including a crowd of nearly 50,000 in Mexicali last week. The state’s Human Rights Commission has condemned the law as well, calling it unconstitutional and a human rights violation.
How the ‘Trump Effect’ Is Playing Out
The peso has taken additional hits as President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches, adding to Mexico’s economic uncertainty as he repeatedly threatens to build additional border walls and make the country pay for it. The Daily Beast visited the Tijuana side of the U.S.-Mexico border and found many residents are anxious that Mexico’s leaders will cave to Trump’s demands.
Trump’s promises to clamp down on trade between the two countries and move jobs to the United States has also caused concern in Mexico’s auto manufacturing sector, which has been a growth industry, responsible for creating thousands of jobs domestically.
Mexican economists predict further slides for the peso before a weakening dollar changes the dynamic. The peso has hit a series of historic lows since November, many of which are being blamed on market uncertainties that could have something to do with Trump’s tweets.
Undocumented people living in the United States also fear the “Trump Effect,” as they wait to hear what their fates may be under the new administration. DREAMers (named after the DREAM Act) are young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and grew up as Americans, but without citizenship. Many are in the process of going through the paperwork for legal status, but the system is bogged down by backlogs. In some cases, the wait for citizenship can take up to 20 years or more, and during that time undocumented citizens can be deported for any reason and cannot legally work. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, had eased the fear of deportation for some undocumented people, but now that Trump has promised to rescind the program, their future is more uncertain than ever.
Arts and Letters
Chicano Park, the site of Barrio Logan’s famous, brightly colored murals splashed along the side of the 5 freeway and adorning the pillars supporting the Coronado Bay Bridge, has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the Interior Department.
The decision is hailed as a major victory by local artists and the park’s supporters, many of whom are also asking for a Chicano Park museum. The park has existed since 1970, when hundreds stood in front of bulldozers to protest the building of a California Highway Patrol substation there, just after thousands of homes in the working-class neighborhood had already been destroyed to make way for the freeways there.
The murals in the park colorfully depict its history, the history of Mexico and the United States, and the contributions of Mexican-Americans to the U.S. It was one of 24 sites that received the landmark designation this month.
• Local educator turned author Maria Garcia recently released her historical book “La Neighborhood: A Settlement House in Logan Heights,” based on her enormously popular series for the San Diego Free Press. The book follows the establishment of “Neighborhood House,” which existed (along with other settlement houses throughout the country) to help immigrants assimilate into their new communities, and which also provided services for individuals and families.
• Mexico has inspired generations of artists from around the world, and Tijuana is no exception. Japanese artist collective Chim Pom is one of the latest groups to be inspired by the country — particularly by the international border.