WE’RE IN

About a week ago, we became suburbanites. We’ve crossed the line; gone uptown; left the central city behind. Actually, we’re only about a mile and a half from the Zócalo, instead of a few blocks. Still, it definitely has a different feel to it. For one thing, the air is cleaner; for another it’s quieter. We live in a neighborhood instead of a commercial district; but with a cocina economica (cheap kitchen) across the street and a couple of miscellanea (convenience stores), a plethora of doctors’ and dentists’ offices, a very large furniture store, and a copy shop next door, it is definitely not a “bedroom community”.

We now have a two-bedroom house, self-contained on its own plot of land, with a real garden (as opposed to masetas: pots); a huge tree to trim (see the picture at the top of the page); and a secure parking space inside the walls, which we have filled with a car.

Our ten-year-old Nissan sedan will give us more mobility, enabling us to more easily get to friends’ houses out of town, and to take trips into the countryside to places of interest (which we will be reporting on in future Newsletters).

Buying the car was hard. Transferring the title was crazy-making. The system here is only partially computerized, and no matter how many copies you bring, there is always one more needed; and no matter how many originals you submit, there is – you guessed it – one more required. Fortunately, I had the services of German Osorio, a recent law school graduate who is building a business out of helping us helpless gringos. Without his help, I probably would have hung myself in the closet after the first few hours. In appreciation of his inestimable assistance, over and above his (very reasonable) fee, I’m going to put together a website for him, which I hope to have up by mid-September. When I am done, you should be able to type “legal assistance, Oaxaca”, “Oaxaca Lawyer”, or “legal services Oaxaca” and come up with German’s web page.

Mind you, Diana and I do our own Immigration work. It’s a simple but tedious task, and we are used to coming back three extra times before the deal gets done. Title transfer, on the other hand, is an immensely complex task, starting with the forms that need to be completed with the seller. Sellers rarely know all the things they need to say, do, and sign. The opportunities for spinning one’s wheels are endless, and even when you have everything in order there are four separate offices to visit before a new title and plates are issued. The whole thing took German and me over seven solid hours of toil, and that included very little time in lines: this was solid running, fetching, copying and paying fees.

So here we are, suburbanites with car, in a house with new wiring (we may be one of the few in Oaxaca to actually have physically grounded circuits). Hopefully, it won’t go to our heads, and we will remain the simple, humble folk you’ve all grown to love…

AN INTERVIEW WITH SENOR CONDON

When Bill Wolfe, having spent much of his time in the theater acting, designing sets and productions, producing and directing, in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, started coming to Mexico in the late ‘80s, he had already been doing work in the AIDS movement, which in San Francisco as in Oaxaca, was closely tied to the arts community.

Bill has been an activist about as long as he’s been an artist. Before AIDS existed, Bill worked for gay rights. It was the most natural of progressions for him to turn his talents to AIDS, even though in his own head, he’s first and foremost an artist.

Bill in drag for AIDS prevention awareness. This little bit of street theater is always good for a picture in the local newspaper, and gives everyone, including Bill, a chuckle. However, it is quite hot in there…

“It’s my fondest dream that someday we (Bill and his staff) will be able to throw the entire contents of the Frente (The Frente Común contra el SIDA, the Common Front against AIDS; the AIDS education organization which he helped found) into the river Atoyác”, he told us the other day. “Of course, in the meantime, there’s a job to be done. We do what we can. It keeps us busy.” And that is an understatement.

Bill designed and supervised the construction, of this Day of the Dead altar on the Alameda opposite the front door of the Cathedral, about seven years ago. It was our first introduction to his talent. Luckily, Diana took a picture, because Bill didn’t, and last year we had the pleasure of presenting him with a blowup.

In 1992, Bill helped to mount and promote a sale of paintings, sculptures and mixed-media art donated by local folks interested in forming an organization to address the increasing incidence of AIDS in the state of Oaxaca. The affair raised what was up to that point a lot of money, and a core group of Oaxacans prevailed on him to stay on and help form the organization that the event was meant to fund. He did, and as his two-month visit stretched into six months, Bill found himself committed to see the project through for the long term. That was over 10 years ago.

“I’m not a businessman”, Bill admits. “I have been fortunate to have found extremely talented people in that area to keep me on the path; particularly our very fine accountant who makes sure the right bills get paid in the right sequence and organizes the paperwork – and me – to conform with government requirements.”

For more about the Frente Comun, click HERE.

CANCUN GEARING UP FOR THE WTO

The World Trade Organization, who brought you Seattle 1999, is about to put on Cancún 2003, an extravaganza of major proportions, officially running from the 10th to the 13th of this month. The “official” conference of this most reviled group of economic planners in the world will be held in the posh – and easily isolated – peninsula of land known as the “zona hotelera” (hotel zone). Thousands of Mexican naval personnel, soldiers, federal state and local police, “police specials”, and private security guards will be doing their best to see that no “unauthorized” persons disrupt the WTO’s august deliberations. Tens of thousands of persons from various international, national, state and local groups will be arriving, many well before the festivities, with a primary objective to foil all the defenses, and disrupt the palaver.

Bill and his poster crew made this giant Guernica from a photograph. They lend it to peace and justice groups who ask to use it in demonstrations. This demo was against the invasion of Iraq.

Caught in between, the city of Cancún is walking the tightrope as best it can. Preparations include designating five approved routes for marches and demonstrations – none of which are anywhere near the hotel zone; setting aside a couple of parks and a baseball stadium for rallying and assembly points; and providing 300 portapotties, 200 portable showers, and a large but unspecified number of tarpaulins for shelter. Special military and civilian disaster units, complete with field hospitals and emergency shelters will also be mobilized.

Officially, the mayor’s office says, they are expecting 50,000 people to come for the “alternative” International People’s Forum to be held in the stadium. As well, there will be a “free trade” exposition, a series of concerts, and other events.

CROSSING OVER

Ruben Martinez’ book “Crossing Over” is an over-the-years, in-depth look at the fortunes and misfortunes of families from Cherán, in the mountains outside of Zamora, Michoacán as they cross and re-cross the border to the U.S., establish themselves in their new homes, attempt to move up in the job market, and relate to each other and to the Anglo – and sometimes Afro – communities around them. Charán itself is presented in detail, forming a well-rounded context for those who come and go from the “other side”. Part sociology, part reportage, part mythology, it is a personal narrative of a common odyssey, and while it is not exciting, nor suspenseful, nor literary, it is an easy-to-read, informative narrative. Well worth the trouble.

As usual, this book is available on Amazon through our Book and CD pageat no extra cost to you.

RUTH AT 84

Last weekend, we joined Librarian emeritus Ruth Gonzales and some other friends to honor her on her 84th birthday. Ojala (it should only be) I will be doing as well when I get to be her age .