18 April 2010

Our Lady of the Strawberries

Strawberries, or "Fresas" (FRAY-suhs) as they are called in Spanish, have been grown in Irapuato since 1852 and for over one hundred years Irapuato was known as the Strawberry Capital of the World. I wrote a blog post about Irapuato strawberries in July of last year called "Las Fresas de Irapuato". In the 1880's when the railroad came through Irapuato it became vouge when passing through town to eat some "fresas con crema" or "strawberries with cream". This phrase "fresas con crema" resonates down through the years to this day and people traveling the highway through Irapuato are still invited by roadside vendors to stop for some "fresas con crema". You can find quite a few strawberry vendors on the road from the León airport to Irapuato. They sit patiently by the side of the road with their baskets of strawberries and beckon you to stop as you whiz by. Many of the vendors are women who are dressed in traditional garb against the wind and the dust and sun and I have often wondered what their lives must be like. Picking strawberries early in the morning and then suffering the dust from the road all day while sitting in the hot sun can't be fun but they seem very calm and stoic about it.

I have never seen a statue of the Virgin Mary dedicated to strawberry pickers and if there were to be one I tried to imagine what she would look like. I imagined her sitting calmly and sweetly by the side of the road with her head framed by the sun like a halo and a dove representing the Holy Spirit fluttering around her arranging strawberry flowers in a wreath to crown her. In my mind's eye I saw her holding a basket of strawberries on her lap and against her bosom. These strawberries represent her son Jesus who is both her treasure and ours and she invites all passers by to partake of the strawberries. The whole thing was like a vision or a dream and I decided to try and capture it on canvas. You can see by my feeble attempt below that I am no doubt much better as a dreamer than a painter. The size is approximately 24" by 32" and I painted it with odds and ends of leftover house paint and some poster paints that I bought at Walmart. I have come to realize that I will never be an artist but at least you can get my idea. I call her "Nuestra Señora de las Fresas". Enjoy!

06 April 2010

Emergency Medical Services in Mexico

Generally speaking, medical services in Mexico are pretty good and I would go as far to say that without the medical care that I have received in Mexico I would have had to leave this Earth to meet my Maker long ago. Of course the services can vary from locale to locale and may also vary depending on the ability of the patient to afford them but basic adequate medical coverage is widely available at a reasonable cost and efforts are continually being made to broaden that coverage. Emergency Medical Services (EMS), on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to categorize. It really depends upon where you are and how much responsibility you have taken to assure your own safety. For example, if a medical emergency arose suddenly do you know immediately what number to call to obtain help? Is the number posted next to your telephone or is it contained in your cell phone directory? Perhaps you would do what too many people do and run around searching for the phone directory and fumbling through the pages while precious time is ticking by or perhaps you fling open the door and start shouting "Help! Help!" but in your excitement you are shouting in English and no one heeds your cry. Suppose that you do know the number and you calmly and efficiently make the call. Do you know how to ask for help and report the details in Spanish? Well, don't you think that it is time that you should?

Don't worry amigo, help is on the horizon. My blogger friend Marilyn Moss is an Emergency Medical Services technician and she has written a comprehensive guide called "Emergency Medical Spanish ". It is an English/Spanish guide for medical services that includes making the call for help, fifteen chapters of medical complaints in English along with the Spanish equivalents, conversational medical phrases and vocabulary, and much, much more. If you are an English speaking person living in Mexico you should have this guide as a quick reference regardless of your Spanish speaking and comprehension ability. If you are moving to Mexico or visiting Mexico for extended periods, or even just contemplating a move to Mexico this book is an essential for taking responsibility for your own safety. It could save your life or that of someone you love. In addition, it will also make you a more responsible member of whatever community in Mexico that you join.

You can find out more about this book by clicking here: "Mexican Trailrunner". The seventy page book can be downloaded in a variety of popular formats after paying a nominal fee through Paypal. It is as quick and easy as yelling "Help! Help!".

01 April 2010

Happy Days!

I was going through a bunch of papers and things that my mother had put aside for me before she died and I came across a photograph of my grammar school fist grade class. You can see it below and you can click on it to make it larger. I am in the top row, the last one on the left. One thing that struck me right away is that we all seem to be happy in this picture. I believe that's because we definitely were. The early 1950's was a good time to be growing up on the Northwest Side of Chicago. We lived in a little patch of paradise and we didn't even know it. All of our fathers were sufficiently employed and the majority of our mothers were home makers. We walked only a couple blocks to school, and each school day began with attendance at 8:am mass. At noon we walked home and our mothers had a hot lunch waiting for us. When it was time for the five minute walk back to school we gathered in the schoolyard and we waited for the nuns' favorite eighth grade girl to ring a big hand bell to summon us inside. The school day ended at 3:30 and we hurried home to watch the Mickey Mouse Club, Garfield Goose, and Kookla, Fran, and Ollie on the television until our father came home for supper promptly at 5:20. After supper we did our homework and we actually enjoyed doing it. It was the good life. I thought it would never end...but it did.

The school was and still is called "Our Lady of Grace School". It is in the Chicago neighborhood named Logan Square. I graduated from the eighth grade in 1960 which was the fiftieth anniversary of the school. This year they will celebrate the 100th anniversary. It is very comforting to know that it is still there. We used to call it "OLG" for short and the kids probably still do. We used to joke that the letters "OLG" stand for "Old Ladies Graveyard" or "Oranges, Lemons, and Grapefruit" and the kids probably still do. If I could, I would go back and start all over again but I can't and neither can you. How sad. I wonder what happened to all the rest of the kids in that picture. We were all born at the beginning of the "Baby Boom" and after grammar school we all went in different directions. It wasn't like "American Graffiti" or the TV program "Happy Days" where everyone went on to High School together. In the early 1960's the flight to the suburbs began in earnest and many kids got flung to the periphery. The rest of us were distributed among a couple dozen High Schools depending upon our parents' affluence and what type of curriculum we (meaning our parents) were looking for.

Perhaps it is better that I don't know what happened to all those happy children. I think it is probably better to remember them as they were then pray that their happiness continues. I am very thankful that I had a little time of "Peace on Earth" at OLG while I was growing up and that I still have the memories to cling to. I wish that I knew how we could bring back those days for everybody. Sadly I have come to the realization that it probably won't happen in my lifetime but maybe, just maybe, someday all children will have a chance to experience the peace and prosperity that we had then. I think that is a worthy goal. I just wish that enough people can see it that way including Democrats, Republicans, Blue Dogs, Independents, and Tea Partiers, and that we can all agree to go for it. We should probably start with Guatemala and Haiti and work our way up from there. May God have mercy on us if we don't. I hope to see all of you and all of my little first grade friends in Paradise but first we have something to finish down here on Earth. Let's get cracking!

Click on photo to enlarge.

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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.