Both chambers of the Mexican congress have approved initial versions of a law which will create, for the second time in history, a Mexican space program, under the title Agencia Espacial Mexicana (with the unintuitive acronym AEXA – probably chosen more because it looks cool than because it makes any sense at all). I say "second time in history" because few people realize that the Mexicans actually had a space program in the mid-sixties, including rocket launches and collaboration with work by NASA during the same period, that was actually at least mildly significant.
I don't know why I find this fascinating. Part of the reason is that, as part of a running joke about "good names for rock bands" with some friends many years ago, one of the most popular ideas for a name for a rock band was "The Mexican Space Program" – perhaps because it goes against cultural stereotypes, and inevitably conjures images of some vato-ized low-rider space shuttle or maybe a burro in a space suit and a meal of freeze-dried tacos.
But I've also been fascinated because Mexico, as the one of the most "developed" of the developing-world nations, and as a significantly sized nation in terms of GDP and population, deserves one, and it has been one of the few mid-wealth nations in the world not to have one in recent times (compare Brazil or India – or Korea, for that matter – all of which have space programs, if not terribly ambitious ones).
Sometimes I feel as if I'm getting to be a first-hand witness of a major generational shift here in Korea. Without exception, my students come from basically middle-class, suburban families cast in a "1950's America" mold: father works, mom stays home, 2.1 children.
Yet as I interview my students and ask them about their interests and ambitions, I get some startling answers: boys who want to be sushi chefs, graphic artists and lounge singers rather than the typical businessmen or engineers, and girls who energetically discuss their plans to be police officers, chemical engineers, politicians, dentists and even one who told me confidently that she intended to be a world-traveling "free spirit" (not quite sure where she picked up that phrase, though I suspect I must have given it to them at some point).
The young of any generation exhibit more ambition than they ever live up to, of course. That's human nature. But I find it fascinating that I am getting to participate in my very tiny way in what will be the first generation of Koreans who are growing up in a world where men and women are no longer so constrained to traditional roles, and where anything if possible, at least in their dreams.