Monday, July 12, 2010
no euros in bogotá
My friend Ricky is off to Colombia.
That is him at the top of this post. On the left. Ricky Campbell. Acting in his role as impresario and maître d’hôtel of the eponymous Ricky's.
A little context may help. When I moved to Mexico last year, I read on the local message board that one of the hot night spots in Melaque was Ricky's -- a restaurant-bar well-known for his live entertainment. Including songs by the owner.
But the place was closed for the summer when I arrived. As dark as a theater during a stage hand strike.
I was walking by one day and saw a fellow toting some art pieces into the restaurant. Because I am who I am, I stopped to talk and to give him a hand. It turned out to be Ricky himself.
We talked a little about the area. He then told me he would be starting Spanish lessons in a couple of weeks. And that is how he became my Spanish teacher.
Now, you may be asking yourself how a fellow with a tartan-emblazoned name like Campbell could possibly be teaching Spanish. That one is easy. His name is Ricardo Campbell. A native of Costa Rica.
Before I met him, he had been a life-long entertainer, survivor and hero in an airplane crash, and consul general of Costa Rica in western Canada.
He came to Mexico for a change of pace and opened Ricky's -- the kind of place where everyone knew your name. Many of the friendships I have made in Melaque have been spawned at one of Ricky's tables.
Ricky's is no more. He decided to close the place earlier in the year.
But Ricky's dancing feet cannot be stilled. Costa Rica asked him to participate in a trade conference starting in Bogotá today.
The host organization is Mercusor (Mercado Común del Sur -- Southern Common Market). A regional trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are associate members.
Like its European counterpart, the organization began as an attempt to stop regional wars by improving trade within the South American market.
In addition to the free transit of goods between the member states, the agreement envisions a common trade policy with nonmembers, coordination of macroeconomic issues affecting trade, and a commitment to enact national laws to effect the purpose of the agreement. Like the Euro-dreamers, some South Americans envision Mercusor turning into a Latin Union.
And that is one of the reasons Costa Rica, through Ricky, is in Colombia. Costa Rica would like to be a member of Mercusor.
Regional trade agreements, like NAFTA and Mercusor, can improve the economies of member states. As long as the European bug does not bite too deeply.
But rather than dwell on what can go wrong. We can wish Ricky well.
And perhaps NAFTA could start thinking about including the nations of Central America in its trade arrangements. Growing economies is perhaps the only way to slow the pace of illegal immigration.
It's worth a shot.