is one of our oldest Oaxaca friends. She made her living for years as a free-lance travel writer, and threw some magazine work my way when I really needed it. Her web site has been a source of valuable information for me over the years.
This week a couple dozen of us were invited to accompany her on the occasion of her 77th birthday, for an excursion to Guelatao (the birthplace of Benito Juarez) and nearby Ixtlan.
Our destination was a trout farm / restaurant high above Ixtlan, where we were treated to a delicious comida. All the photos in this issue were taken along the way. The masthead photo was taken in Guelatao at the pond. If you visit, be sure to slather yourself with insect repellent, particularly below the knee: the chiggers are plentiful, and very hungry…
I’m cleaning out my virtual closet, and among other things, I have discovered some stored-for-later-use articles, a few incomplete articles, some forgotten notes: the accumulation that has fallen through the net of my memory, the weave of which seems to be getting larger. Some of the results of all this anal activity as well as some personal maunderings are available below…
A Public Life:
I didn’t come to Mexico to be a pundit / columnist / prognosticator, and certainly not to be “Mr. Oaxaca”. Honest, I didn’t. Life is what happens between daydreams, and my daydreams bore little resemblance to my real life, then or now.
Nonetheless, here I am, and my life here, which I love, is what it is. I wrote some letters to a pal back home, and he put them in his newspaper and sent me a check. That’s when “Letters from Mexico” became a monthly column with a deadline. Another friend who early understood the future of the Internet chided me into reproducing my Letters on his website. When it appeared that he might have to close his website, I moved my musings to Mexico Connect. At some point in all this peripatetic wandering, I started my own website, and at the urging of friends I started charging for what had become “The Oaxaca / Mexico Newsletter”.
When I came to Oaxaca, I joined the Lending Library. One day, growing tired of hearing Ruth the Librarian complain about how much of her time was taken up by answering the same newcomers’ questions over and over, I offered to hold a class for a couple of hours, twice a week. When asked, she could say she was really too busy at the moment, but come on by and ask Stan. I charged a small fee, and gave the Library 20%.
The church at Ixlan de Juarez, where Benito Juarez was baptised.
I met Diana at a Muertos party in 1994. Now, I am a “married” retired geezer living in Paradise, and have more than a few friends who credit me for having been the catalyst in their decision to live here, too.
Twenty years ago, I had savings to live on. Now, I depend on the income from my Newsletter for the “extras” that sweeten my life.
This puts me in a difficult position. On the one hand, the political and economic situations here have deteriorated in the last twenty years; on the other, bad news could turn down the enthusiasm of some folks who might otherwise decide to venture here, or even (heaven forefend) result in a loss of subscribers. It’s a balancing act. I hope am doing it with some grace.
I know that some of you are not much interested in the politics, preferring the “lighter” pieces, while others appreciate my quirky viewpoint and writing style, or Diana’s photos. I note that as Oaxaca gets to be a more popular retirement destination, more blogs are being written; and remind myself that very few of them charge for access. Those of us that charge are bucking the tide of a medium that is designed for a “free” exchange of information.
Subscriptions have been slowly dropping (although they seem to be picking up just now). I don’t know if it’s just the economy, or if it’s the attraction of new destinations; if Oaxaca has “matured” as a destination, superannuating the Newsletter, or if there are too many other sources now; or if I’ve just grown stale.
Discontinuing the Newsletter, or giving it away to everyone, are not options: I need the money. I am disinclined to accept advertising on aesthetic grounds, and because I respect my readers’ right to enjoy the Newsletter without distractons such as flashing exhortations. Any ideas?
The inside of the Ixlan church is covered with gold leaf. A lot of money got spent to do it. I wonder if any of it came from Benito’s treasury…
A homily on the Library:
The Library is too small for all the events it plans; a complaint I share with some members of the Board and many other Library lizards. Everybody’s aware of this on some level.
For whatever reason, those who use the Library are not keeping it solvent; and past fundraising efforts have at best proven to be only a temporary fix. Turning nearly every Library event into a fundraiser may please the tourists, bless them all, but also turns off a lot of folks. Uncle / Aunt Sugar will not die and donate a grand hacienda to our humble community. Nor does the Library have a functioning system for seeking endowments or bequests. What then is to be done?
I think that the Board is failing to think outside the box. The Library doesn’t need to get bigger; it can easily handle the amount of books it has, and more, once it gets rid of all those other space- and attention- consuming “extra events”.
I’m not sure where the lectures and multimedia events could be held, but I urge the Board to consider moving them.
Near the church entrance, a less gaudy, simpler ex voto…
The coffee shop doesn’t make any money for the Library, and it takes up a lot of volunteer labor, and a whole lot of space. Keep a few tables for conver-sations, but stop with the bagels. If someone wants to hang out and chew the fat of a morning, they can pick up a coffee and their favorite snack along the way, in shops owned by local people which the present coffee shop is underselling.
If the Board insists on keeping it all together in one larger space, which most agree is not an affordable alternative, consider this: get the government (local, state, or federal) to donate the use of an empty building. There are some; more as the move to get out of the Center into more defensible locations continues to grow. It just takes knowing someone, or someone who knows that someone. The Board needs to quietly solicit help from members who have such connections. I wish I could help, but I don’t know anyone like that. Do you?
“Orientation to Oaxaca” has moved:
Now that the “season” is ending, I am not going to be offering my “Orientation” sessions at the Library. Instead, I will be holding forth in restaurant “Santo Sabor”, right next to our house, starting at 10:00 on Mondays. The earlier hours will serve several purposes. For example, it will be a whole lot cooler in the hot season and it will be dryer in the rainy season. Attendance will be free to all, with a donation box strategically placed on the way out. This will not affect my “private” by-appointment-only sessions, for which there will be a charge.
A real scholar / activist speaks:
It’s always nice to run across someone who is thoughtful, intelligent, well-documented, and who pretty much agrees with me about the practical realities of power politics here in Mexico. Emphasis on the “agrees with me”…
There are a few folks around whose reporting I respect. Bill Stone is one of them. His recent article published on the OpEd News website, on the nexus between international capital, and the corporate class in Mexico – the “fast tracking” of so-called economic and social “reforms” – is well-documented, scholarly (but not dry), and puts current events in a proper historical perspective while examining some likely outcomes. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in going below the surface of “tourist Mexico”. I have reproduced it here.
This shepherd boy tends his flock at the entrance to the pond / park in Guelatao
** For all of us who are of short attention span, this is a quick study on why it’s a bad idea to privatize Mexico’s oil:
Pemex estimates that the total of Mexico’s remaining petroleum reserves is just under 113 Billion barrels. Of this, a majority of the reserves – 60 Billion barrels – is in controversial oil shale or in very difficult-to-tap places.
Pemex intends to control 31% of the proven reserves, and only 15% of the rest. This means that foreign corporations will control 62% of the proven reserves, and 85% of the “dirty” sources. Looks like a formula for ecological disaster to me…
** Is it “blockade season”? Between Antorcha Campesina (remember, they used to work for the PRI, and probably still do) – and the students and faculty at the teachers’ schools – hardly a day goes by without a major blockade, and often two or three a day. Snarled traffic and slow detours can pop up anywhere, although the favorite spots seem to be near the baseball stadium and near the IMSS hospital. It’s a pain in the neck for everyone, but given enough time, you can get around them.
** It’s been bloody hot here lately. If you’re coming down here anytime soon, find yourself a shady place to be in from 11 until 4, especially if you want to do anything in the sun. Fortunately, it does cool off at night: we sleep with the windows open, and a very light bed cover. We’ve been getting light rains at night lately, and MexCity got a hail storm the other night that closed all the main roads going west for many hours. Whether this is an anomaly, el nino, or the early beginning of the rainy season remains to be seen…
** I will be rearranging the website in the near future. I will remove the button title, “Other Artists…” and change it to “Realoaxaca Blogs”. They will be strictly monitored, and will not function as a discussion group or a forum.
Each contributor will have his/her own “page”, for written or photographic material. If you have something you would like to share with us, feel free to do so. Remember, it must have something to do with Oaxaca or Mexico travel or living. Send it to me in, or attached to, an email.
A photo of you would be nice, along with the address for any website with which you are associated. I’ll let you know when this feature is ready…
This building, at the far end of the pond, is a library: light, airy, well maintained.
** A search engine has been added to the Realoaxaca website “home page”. Using key words, it will search the entire site, not just the Newsletters…
** Sadly, friend and mezcál aficionado Earl Fish lost a leg this month. He had some blood clots which surgery couldn’t remove, and amputation was required. He has returned to Minneapolis, where we both grew up, for needed therapy and a new leg. He will return some day, and we look forward to that. Last month, we wrote about the mezcal situation in Oaxaca. I mistakenly identified blue agave as being a mainstay of Oaxacan mezcal. It is not. Earl wrote about it almost a year ago, and what he wrote is as true today as it was then. To read about it in his own words, and to see some fine photos by Alan Goodin, click here.