Since I'm in Mexico, I’m reading "Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America," by Enrique Krauze, which mentions Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, who was president of Mexico in the late 19th Century.
A couple of years ago when I was living in Culiacan, in the Sinaloa District of Mexico, I met a man from Mexico City named Erick Lerdo de Tejada.
Erick and I are both great baseball fans who happened to stay in the same Airbnb during the two weeks that the Caribbean World Series of Baseball was being held in Culiacan that year.
Erick and I became good friends and have stayed in touch since then.
So when I noticed the former president’s name in the book, I messaged Erick asking if he was a descendant. He said Sebastian is his great-uncle (maybe great-great), but the former president had no offspring.
However Erick is a direct descendant of Sebastian’s brother Miguel, who also played a prominent role in Mexican history as an influential statesman and lawmaker and authored Lerdo Law, an important policy of land ownership in Mexico.
Since politics is all in the Lerdo de Tejada family, I suggested to Erick that he ought to run for election against the current president of Mexico, known as AMLO, who's as wacky as Trump on pandemic issues. AMLO believes, for example, that providing for Covid-19 tests is a waste of time and resources.
Erick agreed it would be good to get the family name back in the Presidential Office in Mexico. I’ll think about it,” he said.
So that’s a neat little connection with Mexican history for me in Merida, but not the only one.
The first ten days I lived in Merida were pre-lockdown, so I was able to do some exploring. I noted how prominent the name Felipe Carrillo Puerto was in this region. The district of Merida where my room was located was named for him, as were an important buildings and city features, and a city in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo was named for him.
I asked my host about Carillo Puerto and she just off-handedly mentioned that the man was her grandfather! Whoa!
I did some research and discovered that Carrillo Puerto was a social reformer and political revolutionary who was governor of the State of Yucatan until assassinated by political opponents in 1924. He was a supporter of rights for the Maya population, which in part led to his demise, and he remains popular today among the indigenous community.
I couldn’t find English language books about him before the lockdown gripped the city, but there was a good bit about him online that gave me enough of the story.
Part of it involved a tragic affair with an American newspaper reporter, Alma Reed, to whom he was to be wed four days before he was shot. Carrillo Puerto was buried just a few steps from where he and several of his supporters were assassinated in Merida’s Cementerio General, where his grave is at the center of an elaborate setting in the most prominent part of the cemetery. Many years later, Reed was also buried nearby. (See a page of Cementerio General photos)
The more I learned about Carrillo Puerto, and the more I spoke about him to my host, the better I understood her reluctance to become more excited about her connection with such a famous historical figure in her lineage. Her decidedly conservative bent toward politics, her staunch catholicism, and her fervent support for AMLO, were all antithetical to the radical liberal leanings of her late grandfather.
Here's another Latin American travel story tied to politics.
Unbeknownst to me before I went to Peru, I bear a strong resemblance to former Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was in office while I was there.
Kuczynski was popularly known as “PPK,” and when I first arrived people were reacting to me in a peculiar way in public. I didn’t understand why Peruvians were pointing at me shouting “peh-peh-kay, peh-peh-kay.”
I asked my Peruvian friend, who laughed out loud -- “you look like him, the president!” she said.
People thought I was PPK everywhere I went in the country -- on the street, in nightclubs, at local parties -- so I started to play the part. I‘d smile and wave, walking presidential-like through crowds as people parted the way in front of me. I even accepted drinks!
I’m sure many Peruvians still have selfies of themselves and their friends with "PPK," as I was often besieged with requests at parties, even after they heard me speak and the jig was up.
But after I left Peru, PPK fell out of favor like many Peruvian presidents who eventually get charged with corruption, and I think he was under house arrest for a while and may be in jail now.
When I return to Peru I may need a disguise.
But it was fun while it lasted!
Quotes For A Good Life On The Road
“A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”
-- Albert Einstein
See my complete collection of "Quotes For The Road" by clicking "More" in the dropdown menu above.
Who Am I?
I'm a retired journalist from Hawaii who tired quickly of retirement and hit the road as a slow, solo world traveler in August 2016. I've spent time in 20 countries on four continents. Currently I'm in sunny Merida, Mexico, waiting out developments in the coronavirus crisis before moving on. Meanwhile, learn more about me and my travels at Nomadic Matt, and Expat Focus, and in a great story by veteran Borneo newsman and prolific author James Ritchie, about our memorable meeting in Malaysia, A Confluence of Adventure Writers .
Also online ...
GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAY
Still the most authentic, lively and colorful local cultural festival I've seen on the road.
I found this Alternative Arts and Music Festival in the Amazon highlands of Peru. What a find!
Solas "Best Travel Writing" Awards
Saysha: What Happened?
13th Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
(Read it here)