Upon returning to Mexico City after 100 days in Gringolandia, I was met at the door of the downtown hotel where I have bedded down for the past quarter century by a uniformed security guard in jackboots and blue surgical mask who insisted upon smearing my palm with a goopy hand sanitizer as a precaution against the much-hyped swine flu.
"I'm sorry," the guard lamented, "I know it's all a faramalla (farce, trick) but the boss gave us orders." The hotel itself was empty, the guests having fled in the wake of the self-described "pandemic" and the draconian measures the government has taken to counteract it.
Where and when the swine flu faramalla germinated has sparked much curiosity. Accusing fingers point to Granjas Carroll in the Perote Valley on the border of Puebla and Veracruz states a few hundred miles east of the capital where that transnational has installed a huge, festering pig city. Granjas Carroll is a subsidiary of the US-based Smith-field Farms, which moved several of its hog-raising facilities to Mexico soon after the North American Free Trade Agreement cleared Congress in 1994 to avoid environmental regulation--Smithfield Farms has been subject to heavy fines for contaminating water sources in Virginia and North Carolina.
Smithfield has a dubious health and environmental jacket. In 2003, 67,000 hogs that had contracted swine fever died or were destroyed at three "pig cities" in western Romania. According to a recent New York Times report, residents of the town of Masroc complain that the pig farms, which operate with European Union subsidies, so pollute the air and water that it has grown impossible to live in the region.
Similarly, La Gloria in the Perote Valley has been transformed into a pestilent hellhole by Smith-field subsidiary Granjas Carroll. It was indeed in La Gloria that Mexico's first suspected swine flu case, that of five-year-old Edgar Hernandez was recorded March 9, 2009. Edger, who survived, was one of 400 victims of a mysterious strain of influenza that spread throughout the valley in March, an outbreak that was studiously ignored by public health authorities for six weeks.
Granjas Carroll vehemently denies that it was the source of the flu, and the global pork industry has loudly objected to what it considers a libelous label. "Swine flu is a misnomer," declares Smith-field CEO C. Larry Pope, and he may have a point. The NAFTA flu seems more appropriate nomenclature.
On April 13, Mexico recorded its first...