Tag Archives: U.S. attitude toward Mexico

Mixing with the natives

We have another saint tacked to the head of Larry’s bed, a gift from yet another well-wisher who comes by, counseling us to “Héchale ganas,” and “Anímate!” – Mexican versions of “keep your chin up.” Our sense of community here has grown. Larry and I are now good friends with quite a few patients and their familiares. Among them are Juan Jose and his wife Patty. They live in a little ranchito up near Santa María del Oro, with a view of the crater lake down in the center of the old volcano. Juan Jose worked for twenty years in Orange County, working two nine hour shifts a day, the first in the strawberry and tomato fields, and the second in a parts factory.  He lived in Santa Ana just a few blocks from the Civic Center, where I spent so much time volunteering in the jail. Juan Jose took advantage of the amnesty offered back in the eighties, is a U.S. citizen, and his three daughters live and work in Santa Ana today. He is fifty-one, and is in for heart surgery. His daughters send Patty money for her daily expenses here. She is sharing a room with Marta in our hotel. All those years driving the 405, looking at those strawberry fields and the men working them as I was stuck in traffic – interesting where we can end up.  

It has been a day of what seems like three steps forward and two steps back. Of the three of the donors Marta and I met early this morning at the blood bank, Pedro, Teresa and Raquel, two were rejected — rosy robust Teresa for anemia (hah!), and Raquel for not having slept through the night. Raquel had come straight from her night job to give us aid. Today I’m paying her wages to stay home and sleep, and then sleep through the night. She’ll give it another try tomorrow. Her brother-in-law just brought her federal ID by to us, so we can get the date early tomorrow morning. The donor we had lined up in San Miguel de Allende found no one who knew anything at the IMSS clinic there. She will also try tomorrow.

And tomorrow we have a hearty French Canadian coming in from Lake Chapala, a well-rested Raquel, and Ruth Suarez from La Peñita. Johan from the on-line community Jaltemba Jalapeño is driving her up. Ruth called early this morning, just having heard of our plight, and informed me she was O negative and willing to give. “If I need to go to Tepic,” she said, “why not just come all the way to Guadalajara and do it there?”

“Come on down!” I responded. Easier said than done. All the buses out of our area are filled with happy vacationers headed back to Guadalajara. So Johan and Ruth are leaving at 1:30 this morning and driving straight through here to the blood bank below. Sleep well, querida amiga! We want those globules fat and juicy. Yum! I’m feeling more and more like a character out of Twilight every day.

I am learning a lot more about blood than I ever wanted to know. I am also learning a lot more about health care systems and those who use them than any practicing Christian Scientist ever thought she’d need to know. It’s humbling, and enlightening. The courage, persistence, tender loving care, generosity, that we are being shown, that is being shared throughout the hospital – it’s a privilege to witness so much goodness in action. Why should I be surprised? Don’t I know that God is infinite good, and God is expressed in and through the lives of each and every individual son or daughter? Well, just because I know the potential beauty of music, I am still amazed and awed when I hear it played well by musicians who give it their all. Right now we are surrounded by a symphony of goodness, and we are amazed at each and every player. Bravo!

So, if we get all the proofs of donors copied and stamped and registered and into the queen of programming tomorrow by 9:30 in the morning, Larry will be scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. Or maybe Thursday. At least some time this week. Which is progress. You never know when or where you might end up, or with whom!

Stand up to the Bully named FEAR

The economy here on Jaltemba Bay, the body of water on which sits our adopted home in Guayabitos, has received a one-two punch this year. I hope it’s not down for the count.

First of all, Mexico received more rain last summer than they have EVER received in a summer before. It was record-breaking. Most news stories have focused on the States of Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz. The devastation is heart-wrenching, if one has not become inured to images of soggy humanity across the hemispheres, east and west.

But there was lots of rain here on the central Pacific Coast north of Puerto Vallarta. In fact the northbound two-lane span of the bridge which takes us from here on Jaltemba Bay to there on bigger Banderas Bay washed away completely. Here we are, not quite cut off from the airport, Sam’s Club and COSTCO (I speak with tongue in cheek), but having to expand our timelines to accommodate time spent confined to one lane each direction.

No lives here were lost on a par with Oaxaca or Veracruz, gracias a Dios, as our neighbors remind us.  But being able to make a living has definitely taken a nosedive. Here in the State of Nayarit, for a period of about seven weeks this past summer we received between six and eight inches practically every night. Where does most of that water go? Away! And it carries a lot of infrastructure and landscape with it. “Worse than Kenna,” my friend Chelo intones, nodding her head sadly, referring to the 2002 hurricane from which the local market town of La Penita has never fully recovered. It was only this past winter that further progress was made in clearing the waterfront wreckage from that storm.  Kenna came and went, as giant whirlwinds are wont to do. The rain this past summer was relentless, a slow pummeling of a people and economy that were already on the ropes, weakened by bad press revolving around narcotraficante wars and swine flu.

The bruises from this recent pounding are evident. The main roads into both San Pancho and Sayulita, beach towns to the south of us, are still closed. Access to those towns is by pedestrian footbridge in one case and in the other by a circuitous route that bumps and grinds its way through back streets full of potholes. Gas trucks with fresh water and butane have difficulty supplying their customers. This is not great for tourism.

There’s more. The famous surfing beach at Sayulita that attracts winter crowds of experts as well as wannabes is now a sand bar way off shore.  The stretch of sand in front of Don Pedro’s Restaurant where rows of cobalt blue cabanas and beach chairs used to stand sentry over the surfers are gone. Water laps at the wall right below your “beach side” table.  And the pavement on Highway 200, the artery that connects these beach towns like pendants and beads on a necklace – it can be as unpredictable as that necklace you buy on the beach.  Don’t put a lot of stress on it, or it will break and scatter the pieces it’s supposed to hold together.

Number two punch, actually two short jabs right to the gut, were travel advisories issued by both the Canadian and U. S. governments. There’s nothing like putting an official stamp of approval on a rampant case of heebie-jeebies. Every time there is a shooting in Juarez or Tijuana, ten people or more cancel a trailer park reservation in Guayabitos, La Peñita, or Lo de Marcos, all of them over a thousand miles to the south. Yes there is violence along the border, but it is a rare case indeed when touring motorists are involved. On our two trips crossing the border this summer, we had no problems. We hear the same from the friends who have started trickling back into town. Their stories match ours: The Federales were present at many checkpoints, and all were solicitous that Americans and Canadians feel safe and secure in their travels. In our own case, the immigration official at the Columbia crossing west of Laredo was particularly cordial when he stamped our documents. The cleaning lady had had to go wake him up, as we were the first foreign visitors to come through in several hours. He was overjoyed to see us! And for those who are especially cautious, the Green Angels have offered free escort service to anyone who wants it.

So this is directed to those who love this area, who think of it as a second home. Are you a fair-weather friend? Your second home neighbors miss you! Get into the ring and lend a hand. Mexico wants you here. Mexico needs you here. Yes, flights into Vallarta are full of one week vacationers, but snowbirds from the frozen north — snowbirds who spend months here, not days — are the bread and butter of this coast. These are the people who provide fuel for the local economy, a hitherto growing economy fostering a burgeoning middle class, an economy that provided a buffer and defense against those narcotraficante recruitment posters that ask, “Tired of eating beans and rice? Join us!”

Come on! Do your part. Let’s stand up to the bully named FEAR. If you’re going to throw in the towel, do it on the beach!


Mexico Road Trips is a site that offers traffic and safety reports. Check them out. They are frank, up front and reliable. Dot and Bill Bell have put more miles on their car traveling Mexico’s highways than anyone else I know – 10,000 miles alone this summer, crossing the border many times.

Mario Vargas Llosa in Mexico

I just saw the news that Mario Vargas Llosa has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

I snapped two photos of this rock star of Spanish literature last year at the Guadalajara Book Festival, the second largest book fair in the world.

Vargas Llosa was surrounded by young Mexicans, mostly under thirty, all vying for his autograph. I got these shots by holding my camera way over my head and hoping for the best.  I then zoomed in and cropped the image.

I didn’t mind. As a former teacher and a current writer, I’m delighted to see young people going gaga over an author instead of a pseudo celebrity. Prompts me to ask the question: Are these the young people south of the border who we want to keep out of the U.S.?