Saturday, November 15, 2008


On the way up from Morelia to Toluca (a detour, as you recall), we passed mile after mile of fields covered in plastic staked up as rooves over--apparently--the entire U.S. crop of Christmas poinsettias. Sure enough, they grow a lot here, both red and white. And they grow wild, too.

As the bus whizzed by, I noticed a restaurant in some little berg called "El Ilegal".-...the Illegal. Now, that's a lovely bit of irony in a state, Michoacan, where a huge proportion of their men head north to find work in the U.S. There are complete towns where only women, kids, and old men are left. Working-aged guys are gone to "El Norte." Now, with the U.S. economic crisis and less work up there, they are coming home in droves. Hence, "El Ilegal." Bittersweet, I suppose. No one wants to be illegal. But, of course, no one wants to leave their family without food.

The Mexican alarm clock
It's well know that many Latin-Americans have a completely different notion of time that we Northerns. It's not so precise. Lying in bed in Toluca the other morning, I listened to the church bells ringing out their message, "get out of bed and go to work." It wasn't a Sunday. At 6 a.m., out chimed six sonorous tones. Got it. It's six o'clock. I'm retired, so I don't have to get out of bed. Then, at 6:15, a short 4-tone sequence. A chorus of dogs harmonizes. Followed at 6:30 by an 8-note sequence building on the first, and then at 6:45 by a 12-note sequence, including the two earlier patterns. Got it. This is the Mexican alarm clock....with a built in snooze alarm! It{s a public service. No wonder hardly anyone wears a watch around here.