The end of the trail:

In this, the 19th year of my bi-national status, and the 75th of my existence, I have resolved that I will be done with annual trips back to the “old country”; that I no longer have any need to live in other places; that Oaxaca, for better or worse, is the stage on which I will play out the long and winding road that has been what I have dubbed my “inappropriate life” (see my incomplete Memoir).

I will be giving up my Medicare, my subsidized medicine, the comfortable home I have been sharing with Diana in California’s Central Valley.  I won’t get to see those friends who are unable (or unwilling) to make the trip to Oaxaca.  On the other hand, the medical system in the U.S. has not been very responsive to my needs, the trip from here to there and back is increasingly arduous and expensive, and I have some wonderful friends that I have made here, many of whom have also disconnected themselves from Old Glory.

It is my intention to die here (but hopefully not soon), a desire that Diana appears to match.  For her part she will continue to make her annual trips to be with her family (all of whom are fine people whom I genuinely like), until it becomes too much of a burden, at which time she will opt to stay here.  My late brother Max used to say,”I’d rather die in Oaxaca than live in Minnesota”, and I have come to resemble that remark.  Not that Minnesota isn’t a great place to live – I can testify that it is – but being expatriated suits me, and living in Oaxaca is sweet. [

[El Llano is a people’s park, with public events all over the place. This photo is of a Sunday Zumba session]

Next year, I will become a permanent resident of Mexico.  Diana has already done so.  Being a temporary resident has become more costly, with more hoops to jump through – although the folks at Migracion do their best to be helpful.   I will keep my U.S. passport, and my bank account: I see no reason not to.

The Newsletter will go on as long as I do, as will work on my next book (the last one was printed 15 years ago).  My memoirs need more attention, and our website even more so.  I’ve some other ideas, for example a performance piece, which should easily occupy my time if I ever have time enough left over to need occupying…

Some of you may know that for the last several months I have been spending a couple of hours every Monday at the Library, pontificating on life in Oaxaca, and perhaps enlightening visitors – and some permanent residents – about whatever interests them.  I use it as an opportunity to sell Newsletter subscriptions, and to listen to them talk about what they have heard, experienced, been perplexed about: soundings…

[A clever entrepreneur figured out that if he provided some cool battery powered kiddie cars in Llano park, they would come. It worked.]

I learn a lot from the people who attend these sessions, both by the questions they ask and the feedback they give me.  Far and away the most common concern is safety, both personal (will I be kidnapped? Robbed?) and physical (can I drink my margarita with ice?). The former needs more explanation; the latter is in almost all cases “yes”.

Second most common is health care, as you would expect from strangers in a strange land.  Mostly they are surprised at how positively I answer, expecting a “this is, after all, not the first world” type of answer.  After my last visit to the U.S. I can tell them that in fact, care – in terms of medical professionals who really care about their patients – is far better here;  diagnostics can be less precise, mostly due to lack of the latest (expensive) machinery.

Other topics such as where to go for X,  costs for services, rents, etc., and how I got here and why I stayed, share most of the rest of the session.  I always take my address book with me, as well as one of Linda Martin’s packets showing bus routes, collectivo stands, etc.; and a sample newsletter, in hopes of gaining a new subscriber.

Recently, I attended a small get-together.  Of the ten that were there, three had attended one of my Orientations when they first arrived.  All three credited me with being part of the reason they are here.

While very flattering, I cannot wear that poncho.  After all, I’ve consulted with hundreds by now, and the vast majority of them were not persuaded to jettison their old lives for life in Oaxaca; and there are thousands who managed to do just fine without me.  Still, I do confess that the attention I get is the icing on the cake of life in Paradise.

[The sidewalks can be pretty bad in some places, but if you just stop every once n a while and look up, you might see some intriguing objects…]

What’s going on with all the killings?

There has been a spate of highly visible executions of late, one of which happened at La Farola, one of Oaxaca city’s most famous bars, located just off the Zócalo.  Otherwise scattered in suburban / exurban locations such as Zaachila, Santa Lucia, and Brena Miel, the accepted wisdom is that they appear to be financial, rather than political in nature.  [Note: between the time I wrote the last sentence  until I just returned after a short break, the news broke that a prominent politician in Tuxtepec, up on the Veracruz border, had been gunned down along with some of his supporters.]

The latest slaughter does not appear to be involved with either the mining or the wind-farm areas further out from the city, where the brutal repression of social and ecological (is there a difference?) activism has been going on for some time.

There are two theories which appear to be in vogue about these incidents.  One is that the killings are “narco” based; the other that they are “business”.  What do we know, and what can we conclude?

What we know is that there is a very thin line between politics and mercantilism.  The narcos buy politicians, judges, and law enforcement while they are also investing in “clean” businesses.  Bankers invest in the narcosyndicates, and business people regularly buy judges and police.  We know that Oaxaca – like everywhere in Mexico, and pretty much all of the world, including your own postal zone – is awash with  weapons; suffering from the growing gap between rich and poor – and the erosion of the middle class; and that things are not likely to get better any time soon.

[As in most everything else, change has, over time, come to the Pochote market in Xochimilco. There was a time when only foodstuffs were allowed to be sold. Now, there are a lot of cottage crafts being sold along with the prepared-food vendors and fruit and vegetable sellers. The tarps are new, too.]

We know that while the killing spike is dramatic, it doesn’t amount to much in the context of the number of people being killed in places we’ve never heard of, and are unlikely to ever visit.  We know that it is possible to live well, and have fun, without visiting those places.  We know that, given our recent arrival (a mere 20 years) and poor Spanish, it is difficult to untangle the many skeins of personal, professional, criminal and family  history to the point where it can be definitely said that this one is “business” and that one is narco.  We know, ironically, that the U.S. department of State “upgraded” the safety level in Oaxaca, and advised our fellow citizens to resume coming here, just before the current run of homicides.

So then, what do we conclude?  That nothing much has changed, really.  The old soup is a little more congealed, but the ingredients are still the same.


**In a reversal of recently decided litigation, the Supreme Court of Mexico has upheld the right of the various states to make their own decisions when it comes to Abortion.  Thus, Oaxaca’s law outlawing all abortions is now in effect…

[Another in our ongoing series of political banners and grafiti, this one is meant to pressure the governor into helping resolve a dispute on the Oaxaca coast. Antorcha Campesina is reputed to be working for the PRI party…]

**Continuing along Oaxaca’s road to cultural diversity (food department), we now have a Greek and an (east) Indian restaurant…

**As noted here earlier, the laws covering both change of immigration status and importation of foreign vehicles have changed.  If you are interested in importing a vehicle from the U.S. and having it licensed in Mexico, a good place to start getting information isTioCorp. Be sure to check with them directly, as the law keeps changing, and not everything is listed on their website.  For example, you may qualify for an “amparo” which under certain circumstances would allow you to import a vehicle that is less than 8 years old…

** In January, we wrote about a kidnapping that took place in Oaxaca.  There was some speculation that the abduction had more to do with a “settling of scores” than with ransom.  The family maintained absolute silence until, after four months, the kids were released a few weeks ago, in exchange for an undisclosed sum…

**Ho hum, hardly a ripple disturbed the surface tranquility here on June 14, the seventh anniversary of the APPO uprising in 2006.  There was a march, but few if any blockades.  There are talks underway among various union and grass-roots organizations about reviving the grand old coalition…

**Some of us have joined an introductory class in archaeology.  It is part of the Brown University contribution toCorsera, a website which posts online courses, generally for free(this one is).  We are into the third week of the eight-week course, so some of the “extras” may be missing from the 1st two weeks, but since Oaxaca is such an “archaeological place”, I thought I’d pass on the info…