30 September 2009

A Red Letter Day

A rubric is a word or section of text which is written or printed in red ink to highlight it. On church calendars it is an old custom to mark holidays with rubrics and today we say that any day of special significance is a "red letter day". For me, today was a day of special significance and hence I choose to call it "A Red Letter Day". The big deal about today is that I went to León, Guanajuato from my home in Irapuato to visit the offices of the the "Delegación Local" of the "Instituto Nacional de Migración" to receive my "Declaratoria de Inmigrado" or "permanent residency status". That means that I now have all of the rights as a regular Mexican Citizen except that I can't hold public office or vote in an election. It took me ten years and nine months to reach this point. First there were five years with an FM3 "No Inmigrante" status, the original one year temporary work permit and four annual "prórrogas" or yearly "extensions". Then there were another five years with an FM2 "Inmigrante" status, the original one year work permit and four annual "refrendos" or "endorsements". Finally today I got my Declaratoria de Inmigrado. My case is different than that of those who came to Mexico to retire because I came to Mexico to work in a specialized field as a "Técnico" or "technician". I could have gotten my permanent status earlier by marrying a Mexican national sooner but I didn't marry my wife Gina until my fourth refrendo so I just let the thing play out naturally. Getting the permission to marry was another thing that took many trips to León and lots of paperwork but that is something that you just have to expect and accept. I am estimating that the whole permit process from the beginning in January 1999 until today cost me about $10,000.00 and in addition it took about eighty round trips by auto from Irapuato to León and back. In the end I think it was well worth it. It is like one of those milestones in life. You only do it once and you never forget it. Anyway, now I don't have to check in with the government every year and pay a fee. What a releif that is!

I have some advice for those who are just beginning their journey through the bureaucratic maze of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). There are four things that I learned that helped me quite a bit. In fact they are four things that I think will help anyone who has to confront an army of bureaucrats backed by countless forms, rules, and regulations. They are Persistence, Determination, Patience, and Courtesy. Some people opt out and pay a lawyer to handle all of the details. What fun is that and how are you going to learn anything by having other people do what you could and should be doing for yourself? At first the language barrier can make it difficult because very few of the INM people speak English. You can overcome that by bringing a friend with you who can at least speak a little more Spanish than you can. Remember to smile and be polite ALWAYS! It will get you much farther much faster than a frown or a pout or a sad face. Smile until it hurts. You can always scream some expletives after you leave the building and get in your car. Go ahead...let off some steam afterward, but during your visits never let them see that you are upset. Besides that, the people that you are dealing with have a hard life. They don't make a lot of money and their career path for the most part is dull and boring. Show some respect. It will return big dividends. Remember, this is a simple test. Stop worrying about not passing. All you need to do is pay your dues and put in the time and effort and you will eventually receive your papers. Nobody is going to kick you out if you are making a legitimate effort, no matter how long it takes.

Finally, I can't say enough about determination. You should determine that you are going to see the thing through and then make it happen. One of my favorite poems is by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. It is titled "Will" and part of it goes:

"The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew the way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervene. "

HOORAY, HOORAY for my Red Letter Day!!!


28 September 2009

First is worst!

My blogger friend Benjamín of "El Bable" came up with an interesting phrase in Spanish that his mother liked to use. The phrase is "En alguien debe caber la prudencia". It means "It must fall to somebody to have some sense". This is what you say when two people are arguing or when someone is arguing with you and you stop because "someone has to have some sense". This phrase "En alguien debe caber la prudencia" would be a good phrase for students of Spanish to learn because there are many opportunities to inject it into daily conversation. For example someone might be talking about how the Palestinians in Gaza are sending rockets into Israel and Israel keeps on building new settlements on the West Bank and the fight goes on and on. You might interject, "Pues..."En alguien debe caber la prudencia". Your friend might then say something like "¡Exactamente!"

My Ma had a similar phrase that she used to say in English but it was a little more blunt. When two of us kids were bickering she would say, "The smart one always steps aside for the stupid one". We would then both shut up and make faces at each other behind her back and point at each other to indicate that we were the smart one and the other party was the stupid one. When my Ma was giving out prizes to all the kids at a birthday party the kids would invariably push and shove to be the first in line. My Ma would say, "Remember children, first is worst and last is best". We would all then shift places to see who could be the"last is best" by being the last in line because absolutely nobody wanted to be the"first is worst". Poor Ma, she could never win.

27 September 2009

Además de mal...

It seems to be a sign of the times that I hear more and more of my friends complaining about everything and anything and that includes my Mexican friends as well as my non-Mexican friends. My Mexican friends complain about "el gobierno", el peso", "la falta de lluvia" (lack of rain), etcetera. My non-Mexican friends complain about Mexican bureaucracy, water problems, electrical problems, noise, dirt, bugs, heat, and lack of certain amenities, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth. I must admit that at times I feel a bit cranky with my fellow man but most of the time I just take things in stride with a "dosis de paciencia" (a dose of patience) as my wife Gina calls it. Some people might accuse me of being a "Pollyanna". Okay, so what if I am? It feels a lot better than being a grouch or a grinch all the time.

Life in general, for me, has been an up and down series of events about the same as experienced by everyone else. There have been very good days and there have been very bad days but by and large most of the time life is rather routine, except when something irritates us. I have discovered that most of what I feel about life has to do with my own attitude towards it which is really about the only thing that I can meaningfully change. Some people look at a cup and say that it is half full while others might argue that it is half empty. I choose to believe that as long as I have food in my belly, a roof over my head, a warm blanket, and my wonderful wife to tuck me in at night, then "My cup runneth over".

I am reminded of the poor guy who was shipwrecked and who clung desperately to a piece of wood and drifted about on the angry sea for several days and finally, on the point of total exhaustion, he was flung unconscious onto an unknown shore. After being warmed a bit by the sun and dried by a gentle breeze he awoke from his slumber and opened his eyes. The first thing that he saw was a gallows and his heart leapt for joy. He shouted. "Thank God Almighty that I have come to a Christian and civilized land!". Then there is also the guy who said "I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet".

For my Mexican friends I have developed a method to cut short the litany of the complaints. Whenever I see them and we greet each other I say:

Además de mal, ¿cómo le va?
Other than bad, how are things going for you?

Invariably this makes them pause for a moment and then they break into a big grin and say something like:

Pues...todo está bien. No pasa nada.
Well...everything is okay. Nothing happening.

Now I need to find a way to deal with the complaints of my non-Mexican friends...gently!

There is no doubt about it though, bad things do happen and at times they are very frustrating to deal with. Way back in the "olden days" when I was in grammar school I read a poem by Joyce Kilmer. Many of you will remember his name from the poem that he wrote in 1913 called "Trees" that begins "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree". Well, I am talking about another Joyce Kilmer poem. As a 31 year old U.S. Army sergeant in France he wrote poem called "Prayer of a Soldier in France" shortly before was was shot in the head and killed by a German sniper at the Second Battle of Marne on July 30, 1918. There is a line from this poem that I use as a prayer of acceptance and solidarity whenever I encounter adversity. It is a very short prayer...nothing more than "Lie easier, Cross, upon His back...Amen!".

Prayer of a Soldier in France
by Joyce Kilmer

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

24 September 2009

"Destinos" revisited

Well, I just finished watching the last episode of "Destinos" on my computer. There are fifty-two episodes and each episode is about a half an hour long. I have been watching them at the rate of about one a day so I have given up at least one full twenty-four hour day of my life dedicated to this series. Actually I have spent more time than that. In the fall of 1998, just before I came to Mexico, I was feverishly studying Spanish in preparation for my journey and I stumbled upon the Destinos program on the Public Broadcasting System Channel. Destinos was created by a genius named Bill VanPatten at the University of Illinois and funded by the Annenberg CPB Project with additional funds from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. I owe a big debt of gratitude to all of these folks. When I first started watching Destinos I only understood about forty percent of what was being said. Nevertheless, I found the story intriguing and it was fairly easy for me to follow the plot. I didn't get to see all of the episodes before I left for Mexico and I remember wondering if I would ever get to the point where I could understand a program like that completely. When I found out rather recently that I could access all of the episodes on my computer through my broadband connection I just had to go back and see how I am doing now compared to how I was doing back then. I am pleased and proud to report that this time I understood every word and that I enjoyed the story so thoroughly that I was truly sad when I came to the end. Not only does the story introduce the student to Spanish in very creative ways but it is a story so interesting and well told as to hold one's interest completely.

I urge anyone who is beginning to learn Spanish to take advantage of this program. It is free and it can be accessed at: http://www.learner.org/resources/series75.html . It is in a streaming video format called "Video on Demand" (VOD). You can't download the episodes to your hard disc but you can watch them for free online and you can purchase the whole set if you want to on DVD. Just open the web page and go to the first lesson and click on the box that says "VOD". The video will appear in a "pop-up" window. If your browser is configured to prevent "pop-up" windows you need to click on your browser "tools" and "options" and make an exception for this program. You can also open the program full screen but I had no problem with viewing it in the small window. There are all kinds of books and study materials for Destinos available on Amazon.com and although I didn't use any study aids, in retrospect, I think that in the beginning this would have been very nice. I would like to hear from other people who have found Destinos to be helpful and if there is anyone who has questions and needs a little help please let me know. Here is a page of helpful notes that will give you an idea of what the episodes are all about: http://www.helpfulnotes.com/destinos.html

¡Qué tengas mucha suerte!

23 September 2009

More signs at the DIF Convivencia Familiar

Not long ago I wrote about our beloved Irapuato family park called the DIF Convivencia Familiar. First I wrote about its history, and then about learning Spanish from its signs. You can read about it by clicking HERE and HERE. Just recently they put up some new signs and so I am adding the words to our "reading signs vocabulary" and many of them are handy words to have in your noggin and ready to use. I suggest that you read the Spanish and then the English definitions that I have added and then go and look at the pictures below to see if you can remember all of the meanings. Here we go:

Isla de Reciclaje
Recycle Island

Amigos del parque en acción
Friends of the park in action

Deposita las pilas en los contenedores
Put the batteries in the containers

Desechos Orgánicos
Organic Waste



Papel y Cartón (Note that "papel" is pronounced "pah-PEHL" in Spanish)
Paper and Cardboard

Metal (Note that it is pronounced "meh-TAHL" in Spanish)

(Note: When a word in Spanish ends in a consonant other than an "N" or "S" it is generally stressed on the last syllable.)

Do you see the trap door with the lock on it in the first photo? I tell all the kids that the monsters are kept down there. Then I give them all flashlights so they can check for monsters under their beds before they go to sleep at night. Their moms all love me...Not!

Misión - Fomentar el desarrollo integral de la familia mediante actividades, espacios, y foros para el público en general, teniendo como punto eje los valores.
Mission - To promote the integral development of the family through activities, open spaces, and forums for the general public, centered around an axis of values.

Visión - Ser un espacio distintivo de convivencia, recreación, entretenimiento, aprendizaje, y fomento de valores para todos las personas que visiten esta centro.
Vision - To be a hallmark of gathering space, recreation, entertainment, learning, and promoting of values for all visitors to this center.

Valores - Respeto, Protección Ecológica, Compromiso, Responsabilidad, Honestidad, Confianza
Values - Respect, Ecological Protection, Commitment, Responsibility, Honesty, Trust

Participa en nuestros recorridos ecológicas y familiares
Participate our ecological and family tours

Advertencia - Se consignará a la persona que se soprenda grafiteando la instalaciones del Centro de Conviviencia Familiar. Attn - Dirección General
(Attn = Atentamente)
Warning - The person who is caught painting grafiti on the facilities of the Center for Family Gathering will be turned over [to the authorities] Sincerely - Director General

Por Higiene - No escupas en la pista.
For Hygiene - Do not spit on the track.

Click on images to enlarge.

20 September 2009

Poverty, Hope, & National Pride

I was out prowling the "outback" the other day gathering material for my project about conical "trojes" (grain storage edifices) and I came across the dilapidated building in the photograph below. What caught my eye was not the building itself but the painting of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on one of the exterior walls. As a matter of fact it kind of startled me and I was half expecting to smell a scent of roses and hear a beautiful voice. Alas, there was nothing in the air but my imagination. As I looked at the building and the painting I noticed that in the background there was one of those giant Mexican flags on the horizon waving in the breeze alongside the big highway. I am not much of a picture taker in general but I just had to take a photo of these three images juxtaposed in my field of vision. Side by side I saw "Poverty" in the derelict structure, "Hope" in the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and "National Pride" in the flag.


Saturday morning Gina and I did our usual thing and went to the park to get some exercise. She did ten laps of the 800 meter track like an Olympic power walker and I strolled my normal three laps like Mr. Bumble. Afterward we usually go somewhere for a late breakfast but because we slept in a little bit we got a later start and it was almost time for lunch when we finished. Instead of eating at some restaurant close by, we decided to take a ride out to Silao and eat at one of our favorite places. It is a rather plain looking restaurant by the side of the road but in our opinion it serves some of the best tasting food in Mexico. As I said, it doesn't look like anything special on the outside or on the inside. In fact, it looks more like military mess hall or a student union cafeteria than it does a restaurant. It has a big open kitchen in back and men in white uniforms cook on big stoves with big pots and pans just like military cooks use. It is a place where people go to "chow down" like we used to say in the military and the Boy Scouts. In short, it is an honest to goodness "chow hall".

The restaurant is called "Manolete". The name "Manolete" is a very famous name in the bull fighting arena. That is the pet name of a beloved Spanish bullfighter named Manuel Laureano Rodríguez who was born on the 4th of July in 1917 in Córdoba, Spain and who died August 28, 1947 in Linares, Spain. A lot of people consider him to be the best bullfighter who ever lived. Many of the moves that bullfighters use today were developed by Manolete. He also fought bulls in Mexico at the bullfighting ring "Plaza Mexico" in Mexico City. He died from being gored by a bull at Linares and afterward there were three days on national mourning in Spain. If you live in Mexico you should probably know who Manolete was regardless of what you think about bullfighting. He has been written about by both James A. Michener and Earnest Hemingway.

The food at Restaurant Manolete is out of this world. It is plain food but very tasty and very reasonably priced. You pay as you enter and the price per person is sixty pesos which includes all that you can eat including refreshments and desert. If you want some beer, however, that is extra. Gina and I had chicken that was marinated in picante sauce, carnitas de puerco that was cooked with slices of platano macho, and espagueti blanco. I also had a salad and Gina had some enchiladas. Now I must confess something to all of you so that I won't have to tell it to the priest. I went back for several helpings and so did Gina. I hardly ever do that but when I eat at Manolete I can't help myself. Actually, the best time to go to Manolete is on Sunday morning or Friday afternoon. The Sunday brunches are so good and have so much variety that they almost have to roll you back out to your car. The same thing on Friday afternoon from about 2:pm until 6:pm. On Fridays they serve all kinds of seafood in addition to their regular fare. When I eat there on Fridays I eat so much fish that for the next few days I feel the urge to go swimming.

If you have ever gone from Irapuato, Salamanca, Celaya, or San Miguel de Allende to the Bajío International Airport (BJX) you have probably seen Manolete's on the right hand side of the highway and perhaps even wondered if the food was any good. Well it is! The restaurant is located on the Irapuato to Silao highway just past the turnoff for the highway Guanajuato Libre and before you get to the Guanajuato Autopista at Silao. You will see a sign for the FIPASI industrial park just before an overpass. Don't go over the overpass but keep to the right and follow the side road that parallels the overpass. Don't go left under the overpass to FIPASI but continue straight ahead and you will see Manolete on the right at the end of the overpass (see map below). If you are curious as to what FIPASI means it stands for "Fideicomiso Parque Industrial Silao". There are 37 companies there who make parts for the big General Motors plant at Silao. Manolete is open from 8:am to 6:pm daily and can handle large groups and tour buses. When you are really hungry and want to "chow down" that is definitely the place to go.

¡Buen Provecho!

(Click on map to enlarge)

17 September 2009

Hello, my car won't start!

Once upon a time and long ago when I worked in a gas station (yes I did) I would have to go to work very early on really cold Chicago winter mornings. I had to go early to start taking phone calls from all the people whose car wouldn't start and needed someone to come and give them a jump. As soon as my boss would arrive I would grab the list and hop in the service truck to go and get everyone started so they could go to work. Everyone of them would be waiting for me with a cup of hot coffee and I drank so much coffee that I had to pee like the dickens. This morning I went out to my wonderful PT Cruiser to go to work and guess what...my car wouldn't start. The battery was deader than the proverbial door nail and by definition that means that it was unquestionably dead. The culprit was a certain somebody whose name I won't mention for fear that she will get mad at me. Last night when it was raining she borrowed my car to run to the store for something and when she got back she somehow left the parking lights on. She often takes my car when it is parked on the street and hers is already parked behind the gate.

I called her at work to ask her what happened to my jumper cables. It turns out that she lent them to her brother-in-law who in turn lent them to his boss who in turn lent them to his neighbor and so on down the line. By the time she tracked down the jumper cables and brought them to me almost an hour had passed. All is well that ends well I suppose and I hooked up the cables from her car to mine and got the old PT running. While doing so I noticed that the battery posts were all corroded and that I really ought to get them cleaned. The battery is less than a year old but battery posts tend to corrode rapidly no matter what you do and especially when you don't keep an eye on them.

As I was finally on my way to work I got to thinking about battery post corrosion. This has been a particular problem for motorists ever since long before I was born. You would think that by now with all of the technology available there would be a better way to hook up a car battery other than by a hunk of lead on the end of a copper cable with a steel bolt running through it in an area that is subject to corrosive gases from the battery cap vents. How embarrassing this must be for all of those engineers who design cars. I am not a rocket scientist and I don't even remotely have that potential as all of my former science and math teachers will attest. However, I think that anyone who has ever taken a look at this problem will agree that there must be a better way.

Oh, yes, and if you live in Mexico and you run into the situation where you need a jump start here is some vocabulary that you can use:

Necesito cables pasacorrientes (pasa + corrientes).
I need jumper cables.

¿Traes cables pasacorrientes?
Do you have jumper cables with you? (Are you carrying jumper cables?)

¿Puedes pasarme corriente?
Can you give me a jump start?

Mi coche falta corriente.
My car (battery) is dead.

Technically an automotive storage battery is called an "acumulador". Sometimes people use the word "batería" instead but this can also mean a set of musical drums or a group of military cannons. The word "pila" is commonly used to mean the dry cell battery in your photo camera or flashlight but the word "pila" can also mean "baptismal font". Go figure! Your car alternator is called an "alternador" That is easy enough to remember but an inner tube for a tire on a bicycle, car, or truck is called a "cámara" which is derived from "cámara de aire" or "air chamber".

If you really get in a pinch and you can't readily locate your brother-in-law you can always call a taxi cab company and just say to them "Necesito pasacorriente" and they will send a cab to give you a jump start. They will usually charge you the cost of a normal cab fare which is generally between 20 and 30 pesos depending upon where you live.

¡Happy Motoring!

16 September 2009

El Lechero - The Milkman

There is a nice old guy who lives not far from where we do and he has several dairy cows. He milks them twice a day and every morning he rides through the neighborhood on his bicycle balancing two milk cans on the back from which he sells their milk. He has been doing this for many, many years and there are other lecheros (leh-CHER-ohs) or "milkmen" serving Irapuato as well although they are rapidly advancing in age and diminishing in number. Gina and I both have full time jobs so we usually aren't home when the lechero comes around. Today, however, we were home since it is a national holiday and cows don't take holidays so when Gina heard his cry she ran out to buy some fresh whole milk straight from the "vaca" (cow). She bought three liters for eighteen pesos and he dipped it out and poured it into a pot that she provided. We usually pay about twelve pesos for a single liter of milk at the supermarket so this was a good deal. We don't drink it the way it comes from the lechero because it is unpasteurized but Gina boils it and uses it in making things like "flan" (custard), "leche con arroz" (rice pudding) "gelatina" (gelatin), "jocoque" (hoh-KOH-kay), which is yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey, giving it a consistency between that of yogurt and cheese, and "chongos zamoranos" which is sort of like sweet cottage cheese. I took a photo that you can see below to commemorate the transaction. It is another one of those things that will quietly fade into history fairly soon. It is quite nice to buy a product "factory to you" especially when we know that the cow eats nothing but pasture grass and drinks clean water. I guess things don't get much fresher than that. Thank you Señor Lechero and Señora Vaca.

15 September 2009

¡Listo para el grito!

¡Listo para el grito!


13 September 2009

Something fishy at Rancho Cárdenas

Saturday Gina and I took a ride in the country and we had another nice little adventure. I had heard from my Salamanca friend, "El Machete" (Constancio Conejo Moreno), that in the community of Rancho Cárdenas (Municipality of Salamanca) that there is a restaurant where they serve fresh fish. Of course, there is nothing special about a restaurant that serves fish but at this restaurant you can choose the fish that you want to eat while it is still swimming around and if you want to, you can even catch it yourself. Being a old fisherman I couldn't resist the urge to check this out and I was not disappointed. We found the place to be delightful and something a bit out of the ordinary. The restaurant is called "Tapia" and it is owned and managed by Señor José Tapia Almanza and his wife Señora Guadalupe Ortega. It has been in operation for fifteen years. It was the brainchild of one of their sons who is a biologist. We arrived a bit early for lunch but that was okay because it gave me an opportunity to take some pictures and get to know Doña Lupe which is the name by which most people know Guadalupe. She gave us the grand tour. It turns out that Gina knows her son Noe from the time that she studied for her master's degree at the University of La Salle, Salamanca Campus. Noe is the Director of Accounting Studies.

As you can see in the photos below the restaurant is like a big barn. There is a trough running down one side where they keep catfish and moharra that they raise in ponds alongside the restaurant. They net the fish in the ponds as they need them and store them in the trough until they are ready to be cooked. If you want a particular fish you just point it out and a man will catch it in a dip net and deliver it to the cook. In no time at all the fish will be cooked to order in whatever style you wish and delivered to your table. I think that the only way that you could eat fish fresher than that is by swallowing it whole while it is still alive. Needless to say the fish that we ate along with rice and what they call "papas" (what I call "hush puppies") was out of his world. We also had a delicious side plate of "tacos de hueva" which are tacos made with golden fish roe and they were very tasty indeed. Doña Lupe took us out to the ponds and she threw in some stale bread so that we could see the fish. As she threw in each piece the water seemed to boil with activity beneath it and the bread soon disappeared. She told us that people like to bring their kids to fish in the ponds. They will either cook the fish that you catch for you or you can take it home by paying for it by the pound. That sounds great to me. I am going to round up some kids and some cane poles and bring them with me so that I can teach them how to fish and have a chance to wet a line myself. Heck, if the kids want I will do all the fishing and they can just watch. Hmmm, if they don't behave themselves perhaps I could even use them for bait. Nahhhh, just kidding.

If you would like to go, you should go on a Saturday or Sunday. This is an easy place to find. If you are coming from Irapuato you need to make a left onto the "Faja de Oro" at the Xidoo glorieta as you enter Salamanca. Then make a left at "Cazadora" and follow it to Rancho Cárdenas. If you are coming from San Miguel or Celaya on the autopista you can exit at Salamanca and head toward the center of town and make a right on "Faja de Oro" and follow it several kilometers and make a right on "Cazadora" and follow it out to Rancho Cárdenas. About halfway through the little town and before you get to the church the road will split. The paved road goes to the left over a low bridge. Go to the right instead and follow the canal about 500 meters and make a right at the gate with the "Sol Cerveza" markings. Park anywhere you want and be prepared to be treated like family. See the maps below (click on maps to enlarge).

06 September 2009

San Rafael de Cerro Gordo

I am working on a story about old grain storage structures in Mexico that are called "trojes" (TROH-heys) and my friend Benjamín who writes the excellent blog "El Bable" suggested that I go to Cerro Gordo and look at the troje of the old hacienda behind the church of San Rafael. The little town of Cerro Gordo is actually part of the municipality of Salamanca and is not far from the big Pemex refinery located there. It is also situated along a very important irrigation canal named “El Canal de Riego “Ing. Antonio Coria Maldonado”. This canal is 72 miles long and it comes from a reservoir in the highlands above Acámbaro and passes through many agricultural towns of the Bajío region including Jaral del Progreso, Cortazar, Villagrán, Salamanca, Irapuato, Pueblo Nuevo and Huanímaro. It delivers a great volume of water that is destined for agricultural needs during the spring and summer. It is easy to see why the Bajío region is considered the "Breadbasket of Mexico" when you travel along the route of this canal through all of the towns and villages and witness the tightly grown fields of corn, sorghum, and other crops. It is so green and inviting and reminiscent of "plenty" that it seems to me like the middle of Illinois. The only things missing are the giant blue A.O. Smith grain and silage silos and the big red barns. The irrigation canal was constructed around 1950 and you can see a picture of it being constructed below. Originally it was called "El Canal Alto de Salamanca" but it was soon renamed after Señor Antonio Coria Maldonado who was a hydraulic engineer and a professor of hydraulic engineering and was one of the pioneers of water management in Mexico.

I was surprised and delighted to find that the church of San Rafael is a beautiful little gem of a church that like many old churches in the Mexican countryside seems to have been forgotten by time. It was constructed with locally quarried stone that has a rose pink color and as you can see in the pictures that the workmanship of the stone masons is exquisite. So far I have been able to find little information about this church. I can only guess that it was built sometime between the Fight for Independence and the time of the Porfiriato. After we had had a good look around, Gina and I went across the street and had some wonderful breakfast tacos made with handmade tortillas of nixtamal and we chatted up some of the local people. Unfortunately, and as is often the case, the people didn't seem to know many historical details. Life for many people in Mexico has been quite a struggle over the years and knowing the construction dates of old buildings was not a priority. That's okay. I understand. I have started a file and I will add bits and pieces to it as they become available and if God grants me the time perhaps one day I will have enough info to post a blog entitled "San Rafael de Cerro Gordo Revisited". I can hear someone ask, "Who cares?". I don't know. If only one or two other people do then I guess that's good enough for me. Besides, I'll bet it would please San Rafael. He is the archangel of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in charge of all manner of healing. In the modern church calendar his feast day is celebrated on September 29th together with Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel. Not a bad idea to stick close to that team, eh?

01 September 2009

IMSS Health Care

There is a good article about Mexico's IMSS health care in USA Today entitled "Mexico's health care lures Americans".

The link is: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-08-31-mexico-health-care_N.htm

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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.