Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

MONDAY, DECEMBER 13TH, 1999 -- BIOTECH PLACES & DZIBILCHALTUN RUINS

We get up early again to meet our guide. Today we're going to visit some biologists. In the lobby of the Hyatt, there's the rumble of a rolling cart. The splash & trickle of the fountain. A hotel guest is hunched over his laptop. Jorge says a nice middle-class house can be bought for $20,000. Most of the time, Mexicans prefer a house. People don't like apartments so much; they would rather live in a tiny 1-room house w/tiny kitchen.

The "infoamavit" program will get you a house. If you can show that you earn minimum wage (45 pesos/day), then the government will give you infoamavit. Otherwise, you have to get your company to pay for it. There's a pay where, if you only earn a little more than minimum wage, it just doesn't pay: quit and get a minimum wage job so you can get a house. There is no welfare system for those cannot earn minimum wage.

Now we go to a professional university, "Instituto Tecnologico de Merida". After high school, students spend 4-6 years here. We go to the main office. On the big glass windows, snowmen and candy canes have been drawn in a speckled snow pattern, as though sprayed from a can. There are wreaths and lights, and a row of punch cards for a time clock. "In" & "Out", and wooden punch clock. The walls are all stucco, and with fluorescent lights. The floor is tiled and clean.

Outside, all the walkways for students are cement. There are glass doors everywhere with the school symbol. The lobby has a pay phone. I notice some office names in the diorama of the campus, "Laboratorio de Bioquimica", "Lab de Analis de Alimentos", "Lab de Microbiologia".

On the way up, the stairwell has a big mural of the stabbing of local indians. This is a common theme in Mexico: murals of the atrocities done to the inhabitants.

The PR office is the "Departmento de Comunicacion y Difusion". Inside, there's a big diorama of a snow-covered mountain village, made from a brown plastic sheet placed over stacks of bricks arrange like a mountain. Cotton balls make snow and small model houses are placed. There are peach-colored drapes over the window, and a xerox machine. A big fan, and a computer.

Outside, we can see palm trees all over campus between the walkways. There's a plain green "barrel" for trash. We pass a decrepit cement water fountain with green moss and bit of trash in it. There are students sitting in groups. The clouds are heavy, but its only drizzling. The light is diffuse and directionless. We hear the chirping of birds. Around a tree is a circle of cement benches.

Everything is painted lime green. The buildings are squat, all one-story tall. Orange drapes give privacy to the classrooms. We pass a corkboard with messages. There are students standing and sitting on a raised cement walkway above the grass and gravel. The grass is patchy and an unhealthy yellow, with weeds. There's a parking lot and a computer lab. There's a bathroom smell inside, like a shower room in the USA. It's humid.

We go up the stucco and tile stairs. There are fire hydrants on the walls and I wonder how, with this humidity, this place could possibly burn up. It's muggy but not hot. There's an a/c in the area, which is probably more for humidity than temperature (at least in winter). There's an administrative area with a water cooler and some very nice chairs for waiting.

We go see their system administrator, a young hacker. There are over 100 computers here for the students, and in-between semesters they do adult education for the local villagers. "Solo personal autoraizado" with a red hand in red writing. "Site de comunicaciones y redes", and "area de servidores".

There's a hum and rush of air, the warble of the air conditioner, and light green stucco. They have optical fiber here: this is the router room of the computer complex. It's 10'x15' and a computer rack with lots of blue and gray wires with the square ethernet plugs. There's an email server (our guide says "servant"!) "labna". All the servers have Mayan names.

RTN = Red Tecnol/ogica Nacional. Wrong-colored plaster where the wires feed through the walls to the outside. There's a plastic and metal closet against the wall.

I ask the computer center guy for anecdotes. He started a year ago, when he knew something about computers but wasn't very informed. He loves all the people who come here and ask silly questions. Once, some student came who was working on a word processor. He was not able to find the "tools" on the screen, because he was using full screen mode, and he thought everything was broken. The computer asks "do you want to keep your work?". One user thought he had to shut off the monitor in response to this.

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