Each winter solstice winter solstice
In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice that occurs on or about December 22.
Noun , tens of thousands of revivalist Indians, New Age acolytes, and just plain tourists don cameras, feathered head dresses, or simple white cottons and tramp to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacán and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo, the pyramid is part of a large in San Juan Teotihuacan to soak up the rays and revitalize their bodies and souls for the coming year. Teoti-Wal-Mart
Teotihuacan flourished for nearly a millennium between the second century BC and 700 AD. In the year 500, half a million people lived in the city, which covered an expanse of eight square miles, larger even than Rome. Having harnessed underground streams, the rulers of Teotihuacan created Mexico's first corn culture. Queztalcoatl, the plumed serpent, a deity ubiquitous in ancient Mesoamerica, ruled over Teotihuacan, and his priests maintained the balance of the agricultural seasons and upheld the sun in the sky through human sacrifice.
As I climbed the 247 steep stone steps divided into four narrow tiers to the pyramid's summit, many of my fellow pilgrims expressed their umbrage at the new Wal-Mart, in plain sight down below, just 2,000 meters away. "It is like an invasion, a new conquest," opined Rafael, a young computer technician from Cordoba cor·do·ba
See Table at currency.
[American Spanish córdoba, after Francisco Fernández de Córdoba (1475?-1526?), Spanish explorer.]
Noun 1. , Veracruz.
"Falta de respeto" (a lack of respect), a middle-aged woman missing her two front teeth spat. "This is Mexico, you know."
"What a horror! They insult the Gods! Quezalcoatl must be furious!" said Mexico City grade school teacher Xenia Xenia (zē`nēə), city (1990 pop. 24,664), seat of Greene co., SW Ohio; inc. 1814. It is a trade and industrial center in a farm area. Rope and twine, plastics, potato chips, valves, and hydraulic lifts are among its manufactures. Marquez, extending her arms towards the weak December sun at the very apex of the Pyramid of the Sun. Her tirade was interrupted by the tingling tin·gle
v. tin·gled, tin·gling, tin·gles
1. To have a prickling, stinging sensation, as from cold, a sharp slap, or excitement: tingled all over with joy. of her cellphone (CELLular telePHONE) The first ubiquitous wireless telephone. Originally analog, all new cellular systems are digital, which has enabled the cellphone to turn into a smartphone that has access to the Internet. .
The saga of the resistance to the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart is a picaresque pic·a·resque
1. Of or involving clever rogues or adventurers.
2. Of or relating to a genre of usually satiric prose fiction originating in Spain and depicting in realistic, often humorous detail the adventures of a roguish footnote in the battle against the global leviathan leviathan (lēvī`əthən), in the Bible, aquatic monster, presumably the crocodile, the whale, or a dragon. It was a symbol of evil to be ultimately defeated by the power of good. . "Wal-Mart has profaned the City of the Gods, and there are no deities in Mesoamerica that can protect it," darkly warned Miguel Limon-Portillo, the celebrated translator of Aztec poetry. Whereas in the U.S., such disputes are apt to be settled before permit appeals and zoning boards, the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart touched a raw national nerve, and so this war was fought a la Mexicana.
Having jumped the gun on NAFTA NAFTA
in full North American Free Trade Agreement
Trade pact signed by Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 1992, which took effect in 1994. Inspired by the success of the European Community in reducing trade barriers among its members, NAFTA created the world's by buying into the 122-store Bodega bo·de·ga
1. A small grocery store, sometimes combined with a wineshop, in certain Hispanic communities.
2. A warehouse for the storage of wine. Aurrera chain here in 1992 and taking it over five years later, Wal-Mart now owns 687 superstores in seventy-one Mexican cities under the marquee logos of Wal-Mart, Bodega Aurrera, Superama, and Sam's Club--plus fifty-two Suburbias (a more upscale department store chain) and 235 Vips restaurants. Total Wal-Mart sales of $10.8 billion in 2003 dwarfed the $8 billion taken in by the next three retailers together. And Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. employer, is also Mexico's biggest job generator, accounting for 101,000.
As in the U.S., the bottom line is gospel for Wal-Mart in Mexico, and no unions or other troublemakers are tolerated on the premises. Non-union Mexican Wal-Mart "associates" earn an average of 13 pesos an hour (about $1.20) as compared to $9 for their nonunion nonunion /non·union/ (non-un´yun) failure of the ends of a fractured bone to unite.
The failure of a fractured bone to heal normally. U.S. counterparts.
"It is not good for our sovereignty that all our clothes and our food come from another country," asserts Vicente Yanez, director of the National Association of Self-Service Stores. (More than 2,000 McDonald's also stain the Mexican landscape.)
A full decade after NAFTA kicked in, the commercial physiognomy physiognomy /phys·i·og·no·my/ (fiz?e-og´nah-me)
1. determination of mental or moral character and qualities by the face.
2. the countenance, or face.
3. of Mexico is often indistinguishable from that of its neighbor to the north.
Not many months ago, polleros (people smugglers) in Tapachula, Chiapas, on Mexico's southern border, wheedled $5,000 each from six Guatemalans and two other undocumented workers whom they promised to deposit safely in the United States.
Moving through Mexico stealthily stealth·y
adj. stealth·i·er, stealth·i·est
Marked by or acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice. See Synonyms at secret. in an old bus with its curtains drawn and slipping immigration immigration, entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important. officials the obligatory mordida (little bite, or bribe) to ease through the checkpoints, the smugglers arrived in Chihuahua City, 100 miles south of the U.S. border, drove out to an upscale suburb, and dropped their load off in front of an enormous Wal-Mart, informing the clueless clue·less
Lacking understanding or knowledge.
Slang helpless or stupid
Adj. 1. clients they had arrived on "the Other Side." The Wal-Mart shared the gleaming mall with a Wendy's, a KFC KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken (restaurant chain)
KFC Kenya Flower Council
KFC Kitchen Fresh Chicken (Kentucky Fried Chicken motto)
KFC Kung Fu Cult (Cinema)
KFC Kitchen Fixed Charge , even an Applebee's, and the ten-plex "Hollywood" Cinema.
"It looked just like how it looked on television" a rueful rue·ful
1. Inspiring pity or compassion.
2. Causing, feeling, or expressing sorrow or regret.
rue indocumentado told Froilan Meza of the local Chihuahua Herald.
The Civic Front to Defend the Teotihuacan Valley (Frente Civica) first got wind of Wal-Mart s plans very late in the game after concrete trucks started pouring a foundation less than two kilometers from the pyramids. Activists immediately suspected a deal had been cut between the conglomerate, the municipal government, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History The National Institute of Anthropology and History (Spanish: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH)) is a federal government bureau established in 1939 to guarantee the research, preservation, protection, and promotion of the prehistoric, (INAH INAH Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Spanish: National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico)
INAH I Need A Hug ), without whose permission the project could not go forward.
On October 1, 2004, Lorenzo Trujillo, a middle-aged teacher, the self-styled "spiritual guide" Emma Ortega, and Emmanuel D'Herrera, a poet and professor, set up camp at the Wal-Mart site, rolled out their petates (straw mats), lit copal incense to the guardian figure of Coatlicue, a sort of Aztec Shiva, and, in classic lost-cause Mexican struggle posture, declared themselves on hunger strike. Their sacrifice made an impact in a nation that bridles at dubious NAFTA encroachments and has been galvanized gal·va·nize
tr.v. gal·va·nized, gal·va·niz·ing, gal·va·niz·es
1. To stimulate or shock with an electric current.
2. by the plight of its Indian cultures after ten years of Zapatista rebellion.
Mexico State Governor Arturo Montiel, a dark horse presidential hopeful of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ran Mexico for seven decades and would like nothing better than to take back power in 2006, was a big booster of the new Wal-Mart store. He boasted it would bring 3,000 new jobs to this run-down region. But local street sellers and market vendors figured their livelihoods were jeopardized by super-store competition and joined the fray. Street fights ensued between those who opposed the project and those who did not want to bus twenty miles away to other towns to do their shopping. When the Frente Civica camp was attacked by angry construction workers, the three hunger strikers moved to the ruins. A second strike began on the sidewalk outside the INAH's Mexico City offices.
By now, lots of fingers were being pointed at the INAH for having declared the Wal-Mart site of "no archeological value." One fired construction worker, Martin Hernandez, told the national left daily La Jornada that he had seen broken pieces of pottery and other items being hauled from the construction site and was ordered to keep quiet about the destruction.
Soon Rigoberta Menchu and Sub-comandante Marcos were commenting on the desecration. The Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was a ready-made flashpoint for indigenous organizations such as the National Association for Indigenous Autonomy, which pointedly asked if the Catholic Church would allow a megastore to be thrown up at the door to the Vatican.
Francisco Toledo, Mexico's most luminous painter, who had single-handedly kept a McDonald's out of Oaxaca city's colonial plaza (which like Teotihuacan is a UNESCO UNESCO: see United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
in full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site), drew pictures of monkeys pushing shopping carts beneath the pyramids of "Teotihualmart," as social critic Carlos Monsivais tagged it. Union leaders came to express their support of the hunger strikers and to remind the press of Wal-Mart's antiunion bias. Anarcho-punks, anthropologists, and comedians expressed their outrage, and cabaret star Jesusa Rodriguez told of the "Hualmartas, a tribe from the north."
As the uproar mounted, Wal-Mart worked around the clock to get the new store up and running before October was out. And as the deadline approached, tempers flared. On October 24, militant farmers from nearby San Salvador Atenco San Salvador Atenco is the Municipal seat of Atenco, in the Mexican state of Mexico.
San Salvador Atenco has received wide media coverage both in 2002and 2006 , who had fought off a proposed international airport with their machetes three years previous, clashed with police just outside the ruins. A police car and three motorcycles were torched.
When on October 30 Wal-Mart was finally ready to throw open its doors, there were seventy customers in line before 9 a.m. A sound truck had been circulating through the small city for days advertising free gifts and big bargains. But just before opening time, a team of INAH workers appeared on the scene and demanded entrance in order to drill for last-minute samples. Two meter-deep holes were perforated between cash registers six and seven as store stockers stopped to gawk. The samples yielded only sand and fragments of twentieth century brick, and Wal-Mart received the INAH's blessings to open for business.
But the perforations had left a gaping chasm in the megastore's floor, and Wal-Mart public relations officer public relations officer n → encargado/a de relaciones públicas
public relations officer n → responsable m/f des relations publiques
Claudia Algorri decided the inauguration would be postponed until after the long Dia de los Muertos Día de los Muer·tos
See Day of the Dead.
[Spanish : día, day + de, of + los, the + muertos, pl. of muerto, dead.] weekend, Mexico's traditional celebration of its dead.
Over the weekend, the Frente Civica built altars to their ancestors and prayed that the gods of Teotihuacan were tuned in.
When customers once again flocked to the megastore the following Tuesday morning, 250 riot cops were on hand to greet them. The first scuffling occurred after the mob tried to take the doors, and Wal-Mart officials had to calm the public with free Cokes, French fries, and "little cakes," according to La Jornada. Then the link to the satellite, which would connect the Teotihuacan cash registers with Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, went down--the gods must have been listening. For six hours, the crowd hung around the parking lot under the blazing sun. A family quarrel broke out and noses were bloodied, the Jornada reporter noted. Finally, at about 3:30, customers were allowed to grab a shopping cart, and the consumer frenzy was consummated. But sales were not brisk. Many people had come just to gander Gander, town (1991 pop. 10,339), NE Newfoundland, N.L., Canada. Gander's airport, an important base in World War II, is a hub for international flights; it also attracts many refugees. It was the site of a Dec. at the marvels of modern merchandising contained within this temple of plastic.
That night, a band of toughs dismantled the Frente Civica encampment by the ruins. D'Herrera, then in the fourth week of his hunger strike, was rousted from his petate, and three students were slashed by a razor-toting thug. The Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was officially in business.
By December, the Teotihuacan Wal-Mart was booming. Although "Nueva Wal-Mart" (the corporation's Mexican handle) has posted no outside store sign to avoid controversy, the interior is unmistakably a prototypical Sam Walton-style emporium stocked to the roof beams with mostly Chinese-made items.
Given the season, the toy aisles were packed with parents shopping. Of six customers questioned, all fervently concurred that Wal-Mart prices were the lowest in town. Princess Barbie was on sale for 288 pesos (about $20), He-Man action figures for 162. But a giant yellow Hummer toy weighed in close to 4,000 pesos. A miniature Wal-Mart megastore marked down to 988 pesos was drawing oohs and ahs. Elsewhere in the aisles, Black & Decker irons were going quickly at 97 pesos, and U.S. grown tomatoes and apples were holding their own against local produce.
Miguel Angel Nieves, a young custodian whose father worked rebuilding the Pyramid of the Moon in the 1960s, exalted the prices and the products. "Before Wal-Mart opened, we would shop in the street or in the central market, which is owned by one man," he said. "The prices were high--and, well, it wasn't very clean."
Out in the parking lot, Victor Acevedo, a local anthropologist who affects handmade Indian accessories, was sheepishly sheep·ish
1. Embarrassed, as by consciousness of a fault: a sheepish grin.
2. Meek or stupid.
sheep loading merchandise into his battered Volkswagen bug. "I don't like the idea of Wal-Mart being so close to the pyramids," he said, "but where else am I going to shop?"
Mexico is a four-millennium-old civilization with a culture as obdurate as granite and obsidian obsidian (ŏbsĭd`ēən), a volcanic glass, homogeneous in texture and having a low water content, with a vitreous luster and a conchoidal fracture. . When the Europeans came, they pulled down most of the Aztec temples. But the majestic pyramids of Teotihuacan remained. And so they will remain long after all the Wal-Marts in Mexico crumble into dust.
Veteran reporter John Ross has lived in Mexico City's old quarter for many years. His latest volume, "Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left, "is published by Nation Books.
Illustration by Aaron Piland