Happy Thanksgiving a la mexicana

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Desde hace algunos años mis hermanas viven en Estados Unidos y dentro de su asimilación cultural, han integrado la celebración del “Thanksgiving”, traducido al español generalmente como Día de Acción de Gracias.

Como dicen los mismos gringos, “haters gonna hate” y siempre existirán críticos y detractores que descalifican el hecho de que mexicanos asuman celebraciones que nada tienen que ver con su historia y con su cultura. Son éstas las mismas personas que denuncian el satánico y aparentemente reprochable acto de disfrazarse, salir a las calles a convivir y divertirse y obtener dulces en el proceso “porque no es una celebración mexicana.” Son los mismos que como bien dice el meme ya “han de creer que la navidad nació en Oaxaca.”

En términos puristas, la celebración de Thanksgiving es igual de cuestionable y criticable que muchas otras (entre ellas el Día de la Raza en México), ya que muchos relacionan dicha celebración con la matanza de pueblos indígenas dentro del proceso de colonización del territorio estadounidense. Se respeta la visión y no, honestamente no creo que hace años los amigos de los sombreros chistosos se hayan sentado con los amigos de las plumas en la cabeza a echarse su pollo Kentucky y jugar a la bebeleche pero habiendo dicho esto, el significado práctico y real de Thanksgiving trasciende a su supuesto origen y es en ello en que existe mucha riqueza. Hoy, Thanksgiving más que un momento para honrar a los pilgrims y a los compadres de Pocahontas, es la excusa que se dan los estadounidenses para una vez al año,  darse el tiempo y espacio para promover la unión familiar y tener un espacio de reflexión y agradecimiento por todo lo positivo que tienen en sus vidas. Es esta práctica la que creo que rebasa religiones y nacionalidades y no veo una sola razón por la cual no debiera adoptarse, no sólo por gente como mis hermanas que no necesariamente asimilan su residencia con patriotismo yankee, sino por todos.

Habiendo dicho esto, desgraciadamente hoy no tengo la capacidad para reunirme con mi familia así que dejo este componente en pendiente (lo bueno es que los mexicanos tenemos más oportunidades de esto) pero aprovecho el espacio y el momento para hacer mi Thanksgiving a la mexicana y por esta vía de expresión, por la que creo llego a la mayoría de las personas que en este mensaje estarían involucrados, les comparto mis razones de agradecimiento:

Gracias a mi familia. En sus distintas capas y niveles, gracias porque ustedes son mi más fuerte línea de soporte y de sentido. Gracias por todo el amor, cariño, paciencia, tolerancia y hasta por las mentadas de madre que me dan con la intención de que mañana sea mejor. Sin ustedes, nada importa y nada tiene sentido.

Gracias a mi esposa y mis niños que todos los días me dan miles de razones para salir a tratar de hacer las cosas mejor que el día anterior. Ustedes me hacen la persona que hoy soy. Son mi infinita fuente de felicidad, esperanza y diversión. Me permiten cada día volver a conocer el asombro y me tienen la paciencia para dejarme ser y quererlos a mi manera. Son increíbles.

Gracias a mis papás, hermanas, cuñado y sobrino por todos los momentos increíbles (ojalá pudiéramos hacer que fueran más) que me tocó pasar con ustedes. Tengo una familia como pocas y son demasiadas las cosas que he recibido de ustedes y que he hecho propias en mi ser.

En especial gracias a mi Abuelita, por todos los años que me regaló y de quien este año me tuve que despedir con todo el dolor de mi corazón. Gracias por enseñarme tanto de cómo debo de ser y tantas aspiraciones que me quedan por conquistar. Gracias a toda la familia Moreno que me permitió un espacio privilegiado para darle un último adiós. No saben lo mucho que valoro haber podido hacerlo y dedicarle unas palabras buscando honrar su memoria.

También gracias a mi familia política. A mis suegros, a mis cuñados y sus familias, porque me han bienvenido en su familia con brazos abiertos, sin prejuicios ni limitantes… y eso se dice fácil pero debo reconocer que no siempre soy la persona más fácil de tragar.

Tengo la increíble dicha de contar con un puñado de amigos y amigas a los que considero también mi familia. No necesito listarlos por nombre ya que ustedes saben quiénes son y espero se sientan aludidos en estas líneas. Gracias por todos los momentos que vivimos juntos (en persona y a distancia) este año. Gracias por ser mucho más que amigos, por darme la confianza de saber que aunque no haya línea de sangre de por medio, somos como hermanos y cuento con ustedes en todo momento. Es en verdad un privilegio que ojalá todos pudieran tener.

Gracias por las amistades. También cuento con la suerte de estar rodeado de gente que a diario o regularmente me brinda una sonrisa. Estas son mis amistades y están en muchísimos rincones del mundo. Conforme las sumo en número, me hacen volver a creer en el potencial de la raza humana porque cada uno(a) tiene muchísimas cosas positivas que aportar al mundo y en cada momento y decisión lo hace. Gracias por estar a un paso, una llamada, un mail, un tiro de piedra o una simple memoria de mi alcance. Este año ha sido más fácil por sus contribuciones a mi vida.

Gracias a la calle. Por estar siempre dispuesta y dejarme recorrer sus kilómetros en pro de mi salud este año. Por tratarme bien y no darme demasiadas lesiones. Ojalá me trate así de bien en el 2014.

Gracias por el trabajo. Tengo mucha suerte al dedicarme profesionalmente a algo que me encanta. Mi trabajo es más que satisfactorio… es divertido. Esto es un lujo. Lo que hago todavía me reta y por ende, me permite desarrollarme y crecer. Adicionalmente, mi ambiente de trabajo es productivo y laboro en un equipo en el que sin tapujos ni reservas puedo decir lo que pienso y actuar en consecuencia. Mis funciones me permiten sumar y agregar valor a los objetivos de mi empresa. Ojalá todos supieran lo que eso se siente.

Gracias por mi no-trabajo. Fuera de la oficina, tengo el gusto de poder contribuir en otras tareas que muchos pudieran considerar “trabajo” pero no lo son para mí porque son iniciativas en las participo pro-bono. Las hago con gusto porque además de alimentar mi ambición y mi necesidad nativa de contribución, servicio y trascendencia, son espacios alternos para compartir y rebotar ideas; llevar a cabo diálogos y acciones que me parecen importantes. Afortunados quienes podemos abrir nuestra esfera de impacto más allá de nuestra familia y trabajo. Gracias a mis compañeros en organizaciones e instituciones con las que colaboro y en especial gracias a quienes en el 2013 fueron vigías de mis palabras como editores de las mismas.

Gracias a quienes fueron sujeto de mis artículos este año. Especial reconocimiento a Enrique, Andrés Manuel, Elba, Angélica y muchos otros en la política, que generaron las razones para mi denuncia y evidenciaron todas las cosas que quedan por hacer y mejorar en nuestro país. Sus contribuciones a la vida pública pintan un claro roadmap para todos aquellos que queremos construir un mejor país y nos enfrentan directamente a todo lo que tenemos que cambiar. No se preocupen, no les vamos a dejar la chamba a ustedes.

Gracias a mis lectores y a quienes retaron mis ideas. Gracias a cada persona que este año ayudó a que mi blog personal rompiera record de hits, a cada persona que visitó Americas Quarterly para leer mis ideas y en especial a aquellos que se dieron el tiempo de retroalimentarlas y/o confrontarlas con otras. No hay nada más satisfactorio para quien escribe, que ser el responsable y detonador de una conversación e intercambio de ideas.  Espero poder seguir explotando estos espacios de dialogo y comunicación por muchos años más.

Por último, gracias a todos los buenos mexicanos. Necesitamos más de ustedes. Muchos más.

Cerrando changarro: gracias por leer estas líneas y por compartir conmigo, un Thanksgiving a la mexicana. Ahora sí, a falta de pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce y stuffed turkey, ¡¿Ontá mi pollo con mole y mi cheve, carajo?!

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Another 21K and I feel great!

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It was 4°C (about 39°F) with a bothersome drizzle and according to the Weather Channel, humidity was at about 80%… I’m guessing the remaining 20% was hiding inside my body because my bones started to ache as soon as I got out of the car and made my way to the starting line. To say it was so cold you could see your breath would be an understatement.

November 24th, 8:00 AM at Parque Fundidora. Exactly one year after my first 21K, I set out to repeat this distance and achieve another personal milestone as an amateur runner.

My training building up to this day had not gone exactly as planned, due to a series of business trips and events but more importantly, two ankle injuries which had made me interrupt my distance schedule. However, I had reached a comfortable 17K during the last week of training so I was confident about being able to finish in one piece. Then on Thursday evening, Monterrey went from autumn to winter in a heartbeat. I could picture every runner going online and constantly checking the weather forecast for Sunday morning, hoping for a little bit of sun… I sure as hell did. By Friday evening it was certain, the cold and rain had set it and the best we could hope for was a 4°C low and a 7° high, which was exactly what we got on Sunday.

I had never run in such cold weather so even though I was supposed to rest on Saturday, I decided to do a 7K practice run in order to check how my body would react. It was also a good exercise in order to figure out what running gear I would wear for the race. I wore a light jacket with a long sleeve dry-fit shirt and running pants but after about half a kilometer I could feel it weighing me down and suffocating me a bit so I decided I would run the 21K wearing compression pants, an Under Armour long sleeve and the race’s short-sleeve t-shirt.

We ran it forward

shirtAfter my last practice run, I went home and began writing the names of people who enrolled on my “Run it Forward” event on my t-shirt. “Run it Forward” is something I came up with last year in order to give me extra motivation during training and the race itself. Basically, I dedicated Kms. to friends and family in exchange for them committing to some form of positive action towards their own lives or the communities around them. This year 31 people supported my run with these commitments so I ended up grouping some people in the same Km (like my good friend Righel said, maybe my next Run it Forward will have to be a marathon).

I would like to take this moment to recognize and thank each and every person who supported my second 21K. You guys made ALL the difference and gave me 31 reasons to go through with what I thought was crazy as soon as I felt the cold breeze during the first hours of Sunday morning. If I was running just for myself and my pride, I could have easily dropped out of the race or lowered my pace. It’s easy to succumb when the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Thanks to you guys running it forward, in every step I took I took ownership of your personal commitments and that drove me all the way to the finish line. Thank you, Nélida, Joe, Norma + Armando, Carlos, Shanti, Nacho, Laura, Nelly, Anjali, Mayuca, Irene, Sodorot Racing Team, Karla, Pablo, Jorge, Eva, Righel, Ale, Kishore, Alejandra, Edy, Ale + Rolando, Katya, Elha + César, Mariana, Ricardo, Oscar, Mafer, Pamela, Vero and last but definitely not least, Carolina + Mateo + Lucía. From the Sodorot Racing Team, a special thanks to Ángel who accompanied me during the last 6K of the run and took some awesome pictures.

The surprising result

I had created a running playlist on my iPod but I guess the cold froze my brain early in the morning because I left my iPod at home, so I ran without music.  This was definitely a new experience for me, as I ALWAYS run with music and it actually helps me set a beat and get my mind off the running itself. I set my Nike Sportswatch to show me distance and average pace and decided I would not check time elapsed until I finished the race.

aksmrunThe first 11K I ran next to Cirilo, a colleague from work who is usually faster than I am and is training for his first marathon.  The route was not without its share of surprises, including a series of overpasses which challenged my legs not to cramp up. After the 11th, Cirilo sprinted ahead but I kept my pace, surprised at the fact that after a few kilometers of my legs aching due to the cold, my body temperature had risen to a point where the cold was bearable. After the 15th , my friend Angel joined me for the last leg of the race (and took some cool pics in the process).

As I approached the finish line, sweat had dripped down my face and my contact lenses were watery so the goal line clock was blurry. Still, I thought I read the numbers right and surprisingly I was 3 minutes and a half under my time from last year. Later, I corroborated this by checking my official chip times. Under far from comfortable weather conditions, somehow I had been able to best myself. That’s an awesome feeling!

Let it be said that I am not at all a fast runner, but that’s ok. I don’t attempt to win any Olympic medals but it’s still great to see that I was able to push mind over body and achieve the objective I had set myself out to.

EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS    

The biggest objective I have when I run, is to attempt to stay fit so I can live longer and spend more time with my family. I was not born the healthiest baby but with perseverance, I’ve pulled through and developed my body to a point where I can withstand somewhat heavy physical activity. This would not be possible if I did not have my wife and two kids as my most important motivators.

Thank you Carolina, Mateo and Lucía. Thank you for all your support and love. You are my world.

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Never fear: an explanation to my blogging

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I am part of the sharing generation. A number of changes in recent history have allowed everyone to have a voice and access to those willing to hear. Yesterday’s ideas were bound by vehicles and arenas which made it harder to disseminate them. This is not to say that I am celebrating and claiming that cyberspace access has made us free; after all immediate and open publishing has come hand-in-hand with incredible empowerment of surveillance actors, championed by the U.S. government (and specifically NSA), as Snowden, Manning, Assange and many others have shown us.

We now know that Facebook and Google are some of the largest information providers (willing or not) for the powers that be, who’ve taken advantage of a culture of fear to obtain never before seen entitlement over monitoring not just suspects and would-be criminals, but all of us. All of you.

Today, your personal data, religion, purchasing tendencies, ideology, sexual preference and many more tidbits of information which you used to consider private, are likely periodically and systematically filtered and analyzed by the U.S. government (and who knows who else). This is screwed up, even if it is true that I have nothing to hide from the U.S. government and I doubt they would find me remotely interesting. Even so, when personal information becomes public, when your cell phone is inherently also a perfect personal tracking device (thanks to GPS), it is easy to succumb to that same culture of fear that allowed legislation such as the Patriot Act to pass.

I live in Mexico. And I blog in Mexico. I blog about all types of things, stemming from comedic tidbits that could be catalogued as “brain farts”, to analytical and challenging pieces about the sociopolitical and economic status quo in my country.

I like to share and I like to say things I feels need to be said. Some of them go unnoticed; others get viral status and reach millions of hits. More than once, people close to me have asked “aren’t you afraid of saying X?”, usually after writing pieces which are critical of the political elite or organized crime.

Statistically, I live in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in, so I can understand my friends’ concerns. The good news is, I’m not a journalist. As an Op-Ed blogger, I am lucky enough to choose what I write and how I write it and because of this, NO, I AM NOT AFRAID.

Institutional, traditional media is easy for anyone to measure and follow. It is thus, an easy and attractive target because EVERYONE has some understanding of the scale reached by say, a national or local newspaper. With most e-media only the analytics owners (and potentially hackers and the U.S. government) know for sure if your words have become relevant to a few or millions of people. Then again, if they become viralized, they will likely fall in the hands of people susceptible to your ideas and words and they might want to do something about it. That risk is always there.

Saying that I am not afraid does not mean that I am reckless. There is a distinction between being afraid and being cautious… and again, not having an institutionalized agenda allows me to take certain precautions which deflect would-be retaliators.

  1. I have complete control of what I say, how I say it and to a large extent, when I say it. This is extremely powerful. I can manage the intensity with which I approach certain topics, the form and the periodicity. If I gauge that the timing is not right for discussing a certain subject, I stay away from it even if it would have been popular to talk about. Does this mean I am not 100% free? ABSOLUTELY. It also means I am not stupid.
  2. I don’t do investigative reporting and I don’t publish otherwise privileged, confidential or secret information. This is not to say that I have not had access to it; it just means that I maintain my “opinion-blogger” status. I am not a reporter, I am not a detective and I certainly am not anything close to Wikileaks. My objective is not to publish something before media outlets have already made it public. I provide commentary and opinion on facts and news which have previously been published and/or I put together pieces of a puzzle that were already out there, accessible to anyone with a web browser and the capacity to find the connections between them.
  3. I don’t pick fights, especially with bullies that carry automatic weapons. I am critical but unless I make the conscious decision to take that risk, I avoid pointing too many fingers on specific individuals, particularly if I am making accusations or evidencing a problem. This goes back to the liberty of choosing how it is I say things. Public political figures, like the President or a governor are used to newspapers talking about them, not always (actually rarely) in friendly terms. As long as it does not cross a certain line, they can take it and in is their job to take it. Now, if I had access to a specific drug dealer’s personal address (which I don’t), would I publish it on my blog? Of course not. I don’t pick fights with bullies. Again, I am not afraid but I am also not stupid.
  4. Commenting on a digital vehicle and basing my commentary of referenced, previously published pieces makes me less relevant and attractive to reaction than the original media that covered the story. I may be still at risk, but certainly less than others… and I keep it that way intentionally. I’ve been offered to write for a couple of local/national newspapers in my time as a blogger. Thanks, but no thanks. If I were a real journalist in Mexico, I would be afraid.

Now if I have to take these types of precautions, you might ask “why write at all?” And why take that risk, small as it may be?

Maybe it’s because I like helping others translate fact into opinion and use my words as a springboard for their own internal dialogue. That’s certainly part of it. It would be incorrect and arrogant of me to say that I like being a thought leader. I don’t consider myself one; I’ll settle for possibly being, at times, a thought catalyst.

Also, I love the satisfaction I feel when someone tells me “you put it together in a way that it finally makes sense to me” or “you said it the way it needed to be said.” I recently wrote a piece on women in the workforce in Mexico; it was extremely fulfilling to get feedback from women saying things like “thank you for really understanding women’s reality in the professional realm. Not too many men take the time to do it and it makes all the difference for a guy to actually say this publicly.” I’m happy to be THAT guy.

There are at least two other reasons that explain my drive for putting ideas out there.

The first one has to do with doing what I feel is a service to my community, my readers and the country I love. I try to write pieces which highlight a problem that needs fixing, celebrate and recognize positive actions and/or motivate and inspire others to learn more and hopefully make a difference.

The other reason is greedy, self-interest and an innate need (dare I say addiction) to transcend. No, I don’t want to live forever but I do want to leave behind a testament of my journey through life and writing is an easy and enjoyable way I’ve found of doing that. I will not likely be remembered by entire nations and my name will never reach Larry King status, but that’s ok. I don’t want to transcend for all of mankind, not even all of Mexico.

I want to transcend in a way that my children have tangible proof of their father’s principles, ideals and ideas. I want them to know that they should never fear about having ideas and putting them out there for the benefit of others and themselves, even if they are ideas that break away from the status quo. Especially if they are ideas that break away from the status quo.

We are not fully free, but I’ll be damned if fear keeps my words locked up in a cage forever. I hope my children eventually read these words and they get to live in a world where they never have to fear for letting others know what they think. Just like their father did.

My deepest appreciation and gratitude. Thank you for reading and letting me share my ideas with you.

Women in Mexico’s Workforce

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Women in Mexico’s Workforce“, published on November 1st, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

“Women are not doing well because they want to do it all. They want to study, go out and get a job and be housewives as well. Well, that is really difficult to achieve.”

These were recent and controversial words spoken by Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas and owner of TV Azteca, one of the two television media conglomerates in the country. Salinas made the remarks during the Mexico Cumbre de Negocios (Mexico Business Summit) on October 20-22.

Salinas went on to say that women should receive a salary from their husbands “so that their work at home as caretakers […] is monetized and better valued.”

Unfortunately, his ignorant point of view on gender equality is not as unusual in Mexico as some may think. Even in this day and age, many talented Mexican women face such myopic views as an obstacle to their professional development.

Given the growing number of women with advanced graduate degrees in Mexico—currently 50.4 percent, according to a recent study by the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (National Association of Universities and Higher Educational Institutions—ANUIES)—forward-thinking companies have begun to understand the need to tap into a talent pool they didn’t used to, given prejudices in hiring and professional development processes.

These companies are breaking ground by incorporating gender quotas into their talent attraction and training processes. Some have also begun to explore work-from-home and flextime schemes to help working mothers split their time between professional and personal responsibilities. But are these strategies fair and effective in tackling the real problems preventing Mexican women from attaining greater professional opportunities, or are they simply temporary solutions?

The effectiveness of gender quotas is highly debatable. Those who favor them say that they allow for greater participation of women in the workforce and that they are an essential starting point for changing deep-seated behaviors in business organizations.

Those opposed to gender quotas say that they don’t promote real equality, risk attracting inferior talent and are condescending toward women.

My problem with inclusion quotas is that they don’t tackle the real issue at hand, which is the need to change the mindset of industry leaders who hold similar views to those of Mr. Salinas Pliego.

Faced with systemic prejudices and severe gender disparities, 30 percent of working women in Mexico feel that they are stuck in their profession and do not have opportunities to grow, get a salary raise or receive appropriate recognition from their employers and peers.

The message is clear. You can try to reach out and attract female talent, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if that talent is brought into a hostile environment and diseased bymachismo that can’t be cured by a quota. In fact, having a quota system could actually exacerbate discrimination by men who think quotas give women an unfair advantage.

Conscious businesses that truly want to make a positive change need to do more than just debate quotas or consider special concessions for working mothers  that would enable  them to thrive professionally. Rather, businesses should promote a cultural change that values talent regardless of gender, and that helps employees modify the often unequal gender roles at home.

Businesses must also understand that their decision to promote gender equality should not be viewed as a public relations campaign. It simply makes sense for businesses to attract, grow and retain the best talent available to them, regardless of gender. Business leaders should look to the numerous studies that have proven that a gender-diverse workforce provides better business results.

As the European Project on Equal Pay posits, there is extensive research showing “a strong correlation between a strong record of promoting women into the executive suite and high profitability.” Catalyst, a U.S. nonprofit, found in its 2011 research that there is a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between companies in the top-quartile of women board representation and those in the bottom quartile (with zero women directors). According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the profitability of Fortune 500 companies with three or more women executives is 5 percent higher than that of their competitors.

Rather than simply implementing quotas, businesses must ensure that their male executives learn these important facts. Ongoing gender inclusion efforts, such as flexible work schemes, should not be discarded or undervalued. But if companies in Mexico are serious about effectively capitalizing on women’s professional potential, they should start with their own employees.