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Ask an old gringo: NASCAR, tortilla prices and the border fence

Marvin West

Question: Have you heard anything about a bikini boot camp in Mexico?

Answer: Everybody is talking about it. Hot sand and the sunny month of May are supposed to work wonders for the northern bikini season. It's like spring training in baseball or Camp Lejeune for American Marines.

Tulum spa promoters are offering a little six-day, shape-up and ship-out course for already beautiful people, hard-body girls and boys, for just $1,842 U.S. plus tips.

For this you get instruction and leadership in power walking, body sculpting, ab rippling, yoga and meditation. Swimming, snorkeling and a low-fat diet are part of the deal. Beach massages and Mayan clay packs may cost extra. Viewing ancient ruins requires a few pesos.

Count on the old gringo for all sorts of useful information.

Question: We just had a snack at Taco Bell and started wondering whether tortilla prices have stabilized in Mexico.

Answer: As is the custom in this country, thousands took to the streets to protest skyrocketing tortilla prices. Many cartoonists and fancy writers used Mexico as the butt of jokes. In getting cuffed around, it has suffered an unfair number of ugly bruises and black eyes. Tortilla troubles may be the worst hurt of all. Tortillas are not funny. No matter how weary and overworked Mexicans have been, the tortilla was always there at dinnertime.

It is unbelievable that Mexico had to buy corn from the United States to fight off starvation among poverty people! That's bad and sad news.

The answer to your question is yes and no. There is an unofficial ceiling price on tortillas but not everybody got the message.

Question: I need your expert advice. I've signed up for a Mexican summer vacation and I'm interested in border towns. Can I see Mexicali, Tijuana, Nogales, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros in three days? Can I take my dog?

Answer: No problem, if you have a helicopter and find favorable winds. Do pack a small parachute for the dog in case you are caught in the crossfire between soldiers and rival drug cartels or PETA hears what you are doing to your pet.

Question: Any truth to the rumor that NASCAR has invaded Mexico?

Answer: The great American car-racing industry, round and round they go, has already fired up the big engines, dropped the green flag and roared across the border. The NASCAR Mexico Corona Series started a month or three ago at the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. NASCAR Corona events are broadcast on Televisa.

NASCAR wasn't as fast as WalMart and McDonald's but it slid into Mexico in 2005, drew 95,000 for a trial race, sold a stack of souvenirs and signed up several sponsors, life-sustaining blood for auto racing.

Mexicans who saw that first show were generally impressed. The race coaxed some of the wild and crazy drivers off city streets for three or four hours and it was faster and louder than bullfighting. Victor Montero, 20, said the best part was when the cars crashed into each other.

NASCAR is a promotional powerhouse. I've been investigating whether last year's Mexico marriage of star driver Jeff Gordon and Belgian model Ingrid Vandebosch was or wasn't part of the publicity campaign.

Question: I am studying life sciences at Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Do you think the border fence between the United States and Mexico will really happen? If so, what will be the impact?

Answer: Maybe yes, maybe no. A volunteer border watch organization is building, even as I type, a mile or so of practice fence along the Arizona border just outside Naco. The Minuteman Civil Defense Fence is not an official link in the 2000-mile political project and is more for show than for slowing illegal immigration. What will it do? Force migrants to go around Richard Hodges' cattle ranch.

This new fence is about 100 feet north of the border. Steel poles are set in four feet of concrete. Steel bars 13 feet high support steel mesh sheets. Best I can tell, all Hummers and most small tanks would bounce off. The Border Patrol is smiling but still working the night shift.

Question: Are there any nice bars on the hotel strip in Cancun where I can unwind for a week, get away from all the gringo tourists and watch NBA playoffs in peace and quiet?

Answer: I love readers. I respect readers. Even in old age, I try not offend readers with sarcastic responses. But, some questions get to me. Nice, quiet Cancun bars? If you heard my scream, I'm sorry.

Published or Updated on: May 1, 2007 by Marvin West © 2007
Contact Marvin West

Marvin West, mostly retired after just 42 years with Scripps Howard newspapers, is senior partner in an international communications consulting company. This column is from his forthcoming book, “Mexico? What you doing in Mexico?”  West invites reader reaction; his address is

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