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Gasolinazo: What's happening in Mexico?

January 13, 2019

Head's up, USA: "Gas Shortage in Mexico could mess up your Super Bowl party by causing a guacamole crisis".

You've GOT to be kidding me.

Language teachers share authentic perspectives

Perhaps you have heard mention of the gas shortage in Mexico. In an effort to crack down on the costly huachicol (petroleum theft), Mexico's newly inaugurated president Andrés Manuel López Obrador shut down many of the pipelines in the country. Without means to efficiently distribute petroleum, many Mexican states find themselves in a gas shortage, "gasolinazo". Waiting to see who will hold out longer –the Mexican people or the huachicoleros– there is no end date for the re-opening of the closed pipelines.

The authentic perspective

The impact of this gasolinazo extends far beyond simply having to limit the amount of gas you can put in your tank or waiting in lines for hours to get a small amount of gas from pipas (oil tankers). In Morelia, for example, only two ambulances in the city were operational as of Tuesday for lack of fuel.

¿Vale la pena? Is it worth it?

THIS question is the authentic perspective. This is the question that is dividing Mexico at this moment.

While many Mexicans support President López Obrador (often referred to by his initials AMLO) in his efforts to crack down on this illegal practice that costs the government an estimated $3000 million dollars per year, others are desperate for access to medical care, to be able to go to work, and to get to stores to purchase food for their families. If the pipelines are not opened soon, the impact will become even greater, affecting food supply and more.

Teach your students about gasolinazo

Talking about the gas shortage in the target language is very challenging –even in advanced classes– due to the specialized nature of the vocabulary. You want to share with your students the authentic perspectiveS, and your Spanish teacher fairy godmothers are here to help.

Because we believe this is an important perspective to share with your students, all of the resources are available in a special FREE edition of El Mundo en tus manos. Click here to download the materials.

Many thanks to Nelly Hughes, Maris Hawkins, Carrie Toth, and Kristy Placido for collaborating on these materials.

In particular, Nelly has shared messages and photos from her family members that are living this crisis right now. She also proofed the materials for linguistic and content accuracy. If you'd like to thank her, please take a moment to check out the many excellent resources that are available in her TpT store.

Anticipatory Set

Instead of your typical Weekend Chat, ask your students how they used gas--directly or indirectly--over the weekend.

Gasolinazo en México The Comprehensible Classroom

Help them to really think through this. Did they go anywhere? Have their parents gone anywhere? Did they use any services that depend on gas (order pizza, benefit from plowed roads or garbage service, receive mail, feel safe because police patrol the community)? Mow the lawn or snowmachine? Are their homes heated by gas? Did they cook with a gas stove? Did they purchase anything from a business that depends on gas for distribution--grocery stores, Amazon...anything?

Make a list with your students of all of the ways that we are combustibles-dependent. I think that it will be easy to conclude that "Nosotros dependemos de la gasolina" – We depend on gas.

Note: This opens the door for a conversation later on about alternative energy sources, and there are many past articles from El Mundo en tus manos that you can use to talk about what efforts are being made in Spanish speaking countries to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Establish meaning for relevant vocabulary terms

When you read about gasolinazo, you will see lots of references to COMBUSTIBLE. In English, this is "combustibles", and it refers to gas and diesel.

STEP 1: Write on your front board: COMBUSTIBLE = GASOLINA Y DIÉSEL

STEP 2: A quick reading

PEMEX is the corporation that controls the distribution of combustibles in Mexico. It is notoriously corrupt, from management on down to laypeople. PEMEX distributes combustibles through eleven pipelines that run throughout Mexico.

To establish meaning for the terms "oleoducto" and "huachicolero" and to establish what PEMEX is, use this quick reading:

STEP 3: Examine an infograph

Bring it all together and indirectly introduce additional content based vocabulary (pipas, gasolineras) with this infograph– not an #authres but helpful just the same. Project it and describe in Spanish the two ways that combustibles get to Mexican consumers.

#Infografía distribución de combustible en México y cómo el huachicol afecta la economía mexicana

Here is an example of how you might describe the legal distribution of combustible:

  1. PEMEX es la empresa que controla el combustible (la gasolina y el diésel) en México.
  2. PEMEX distribuye la gasolina y el diésel de los puertos a sus refinerías en grandes oleoductos.
  3. Las gasolineras compran gasolina y diésel de PEMEX. Transportan la gasolina y el diésel en pipas.
  4. Las gasolineras llenan sus enormes tanques con gasolina y diésel de las pipas.
  5. Los consumidores van a las gasolineras. 
  6. Compran gasolina y diésel.
  7. Llenan los tanques de sus carros con la gasolina y el diésel de los tanques de las gasolineras. 

Step 4: Read an article

Use the two free articles in this special "Ojo con México" edition of El Mundo en tus manos. While I typically advocate for EMETM to be used as free reading material, this is one of those instances that I would encourage you to read the articles together as a class.

First, read the article explaining why AMLO shut down the pipelines (the article on the left of the page).

Step 5: Start discussing

While you read, ask personalized questions to connect your students to the story:

  • ¿Qué saben de AMLO? (Recall what students learned in Dec 10 article from El Mundo en tus manos)
  • ¿El robo de combustible es un problema en este país?
  • ¿Cuáles son los problemas más graves en este país (en tu opinión o en la opinión de otros)?
  • ¿Qué se distribuye ilegalmente en este país? (Drogas...Netflix...)
  • ¿Conoces otras empresas u organizaciones corruptas? ¿Individuos? ¿Políticos?
  • ¿Qué estrategias políticas causan problemas para la gente de nuestro país? (Let's see how much your students know about our government's current state!)
  • ¿Qué cosas difíciles haces tú en tu vida porque tú crees que valen la pena?

Step 6: Share the US News Media perspective

Share with your students this clip from CNN about the gas shortage ("gasolinazo"; "cuando no hay suficiente gasolina") in Mexico. Ask them, "What's the perspective?"

Here's the perspective that I see; perhaps your students will agree:

El gasolinazo es problemático para los estadounidenses porque será más difícil y más costoso conseguir aguacates. El gasolinazo va a arruinar las fiestas de Super Bowl de los estadounidenses.

Step 7: Consider a different perspective

Read with your students the second article; the one that focuses on how the gas shortage is affecting daily life in many parts of Mexico.

When the article mentions which states are most affected, pull up a map and locate Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Querétaro.

Gasolinazo en México; locate the states that are most affected by the gas shortage. Image CC BY-SA 3.0 2013 Isiltasuna~commonswiki

Step 8: Share some images

La Sra. Martha is a real woman, and here are some photos that she took on Saturday morning as she waited to get a small amount of gas from a gas station that had recently received a delivery from a pipa. The line that she waited in was over 2 kilometers long! Like many others, she ended up with nothing because the gasolinera ran out of gas.

Gasolinazo en México: Photos provided by Nelly Hughes; Comprendes Méndez SpanishShop

Step 9: Make a connection

Tell your students that in many parts of Mexico, life is normal. Their oleoductos were not shut down. Many people living outside of the affected states have no idea how serious the situation is.

Ask your students if they have ever felt like this.

  • Do your students live in California, where they had to evacuate due to wildfires, or where their homes were lost altogether? Did they feel like the rest of the country cared?
  • Do your students live in Alaska, where an earthquake left no fatalities but left many homes and businesses condemned, possessions destroyed, and continues to bring fear with constant aftershocks? Did they feel like the rest of the country cared?
  • Do your students live in Florida or North Carolina, where hurricanes destroyed entire communities? Did they feel like the rest of the country cared?
  • Do your students fight daily personal battles that no one seems to notice or care about?

Step 10: End with balance

Remember: it's not our job to tell students what to think any more than it is our job to project our solutions on another nation. We want our students to understand that the gas shortage isn't a crisis because we don't get avocados; it's a crisis because

  1. Corruption and crime in the form of huachicol are an ongoing problem in Mexico, contributing to violence and increased gas prices for consumers.
  2. Life has come to a halt in many parts of Mexico, and people are desperate because they need gas for safety, for income, and more.

Both of these problems are monumental, and Mexico is at odds about how best to navigate this situation just as the United States is at odds about how best to navigate the government shutdown. As AMLO is quotes in the Ojo con México special editionthe entire nation is waiting to see who will hold out longer: the Mexican people or the huachicoleros.

¡Manos a la obra!

If you're worried about not being able to serve guacamole at your Super Bowl party....SORRY NOT SORRY!

Guys, we've got work to do!

I'm going to retweet any related #authres materials that I find with #gasolinazoELE (ELE = Español como lengua extranjera) so that you can easily find more perspectives to share with your students.

Download all resources FREE in this pack: Click here.

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