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— "And there was always economic news. During the 1970s there was this huge push to develop the oil industry and there were all these petrodollars flowing into the country. It was a crazy time. An insane time. We were all living in a kind of unreality. Even secretaries were traveling, going off to places like India. We all participated in the unreality. In 1976, there was a devaluation, and we lived with the currency's instability for some time. Of course, there were rumors. In Mexico, there are always rumors. At the end of the 1970s, we knew the price of oil was dropping. Mexico was going to have to drop its prices but didn't want to. Rumors were rife that there was going to be another devaluation. By August 1981, the rumors got rifer and rifer. President Zedillo made his famous quote; he said he would 'defend the peso the way a dog defends its bone.' The next day, all over central Mexico City, you saw people wearing little buttons that had a picture of a dog with a bone in its mouth.

"In February 1982, President Portillo announced, 'There would not be a devaluation.' And of course the minute he said that, everyone in Mexico knew that there was going to be a devaluation. All over the country you had bank managers telling their clients to pull their money out of the banks. This infuriated Portillo and led to his nationalizing the banks. Another disaster.

"I remember when he announced it. It was September 1, 1982. The president's State of the Union address. I was sitting in my office, listening to the English-language news. The way these addresses usually went was that, the night before, translators would stay up until all hours, meticulously translating the president's speech into English, French, what have you. Listening to the English announcer, I could tell he didn't have a prepared translation, which was very odd. He was confused. He had to ad lib. I was writing for an economics newsletter at that time, and we were going to press that afternoon. A friend who wrote for AP called me and said, 'Hold off. This is going to be big. No one has a translation of the president's speech.' Sure enough, three quarters of the way through his speech, President Portillo announced he was nationalizing the banks. Everyone was stunned. I heard, but don't know, that the head of Banco de Mexico, the country's central bank, fainted.

"By the late '80s, we were already starting to talk about the Colombia-ization of Mexico. I remember visiting friends in the city of Oaxaca at that time, and they would point out homes to me and say, 'This one belongs to such-and-such drug lord. That home belongs to another.' You really started to become aware of crime right after the big devaluation in 1995. It wiped out so much of Mexico's middle class. It left so many people desperate. In April 1995, a friend of mine in Mexico City went grocery shopping. She'd bought quite a bit, and as she was putting it into the trunk of her car, she was approached by a well-dressed, good-looking man with a gun. He told my friend, 'I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to take your car.' My friend took a taxi home and just as she was about to call the insurance company, she got a phone call from the man who robbed her. He told her where she could find her car. He said, 'I have to apologize. I've never done this before in my life. I've lost my job. I have no money to buy food for my children. The only reason I robbed you was that you had more groceries than anyone else in the parking lot.'

"Immediately after the '95 devaluation, people started hiring bodyguards. They started having bullet-proof glass installed in their cars.

"Mexico City isn't easy to live in, especially not for someone my age. I decided that I'd like to move up to the border, or to San Diego, to be closer to my family. I have family in San Diego. When I got here, earlier this year, I was shocked by the rents. So, I found a place in Tijuana, a little house, out near the racetrack. It seems I can't get away from Mexico, even if I try.

"I guess, deep down, I'd find life in the U.S. too boring -- too, too staid. I was able to witness great changes in Mexico. The urbanization of the country has, of course, been tremendous. But there's been what you'd call 'rising expectations.' There's been too much exposure now to movies, television. People have seen, and have an idea, of a different way of life; a more stable, more prosperous way of life. They see that it might be within their grasp. I never thought that in my lifetime I'd see a bloodless revolution in Mexico. The PRI was so entrenched. But a bloodless revolution has happened. Now it's up to President Fox to see just how far he can carry it through.

"After I moved up here I thought I was through with the Mexican economy. I'd written about it enough. But the News has asked me to start writing a column of economic analysis that will run three times a week. I have no doubt that I'll have plenty of material. Which is why I suppose I stay in Mexico. On one side of the border, everything's predictable. You step one foot into Mexico, and everything's interesting."

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