May 30, 2006

Popoluca Speaker

George M Foster recently died at age 92. He spent many of his younger years in the Sierra Santa Marta just south of beautiful downtown Catemaco. The noted anthropologist was one of the first to study Popoluca and Nahuatl dialects unique to Los Tuxtlas, and among his hundreds of books, dissertations and monographs, he was one of the first to focus international attention on those Tuxtlas languages in 1951.

55 years later there are now a rash of concerns over the disappearance of these dialects.

Dozens of species have already disppeared from Los Tuxtlas. Maybe an international designation of the Popolucas as an endangered species might help these totally impoverished and ignored survivors since possibly the Olmec days, attain creditable economic survival status.

Foster Obituary:

Photo: George Foster (G. Paul Bishop photo) University of Berkeley article

May 27, 2006

Catemaco horse apples

Open Letter to the Catemaco Mayor.

Thank you for buying those dozens of benches now gracing the Malecon with the insignia of your term of office and "ESCAPATE AL PARAISO. That is a very nice slogan to read, especially once I am already here and sitting on my paradise.

A few days ago you sponsored a cavalcada on the flanks of the San Martin Volcano. Apparently this was a remarkable event, 80 horse riders passing from Cuauthemoc to Perla San Martin. It must have been a wonderful experience, and I wish someone had informed me ahead of time so I and my harem could have participated.

That brings me to the point of this open letter. I realize Mexican journalism depends on financial contributions from news sources to create "news". Would it be possible to scrounge some pesos from the Catemaco budget and publish a weekly legitimate ad in a newspaper, (unfortunately all situated in San Andres Tuxtla), which would announce all upcoming events in beautiful uptown and downtown Catemaco?

I hate being on the wrong end of a horse.

May 19, 2006

Catemaco food shopping

Finally a Walmart franchise, Aurrera, opened in San Andres Tuxtla. And since that store lacks many of the things which that aweful Soriana store does not stock, I now have 8 Steps to complete my shopping in and around beautiful downtown Catemaco.

First I get my basics at the local vegetable, meat and drygoods stores. That´s 3 steps and I do that, because it is more convenient and I like to spend my money where I s(h)it.

Fourth, I now drive to Aurrera. Previously I went to Soriana's first, to fill in with stuff not available in Catemaco, such as fresh romaine lettuce, black bread, and other goodies.

Fifth, I drive to Soriana to buy the stuff Aurrera does not stock, such as quality canned tuna, chile beans, round tomatoes, etc.

Sixth, then I venture to Fenix in San Andres for such unusuals as crunchy JIF peanut butter, Smucker´s blueberry jelly and Dijon mustard.

Seventh, gnawing on my shopping list, I head for Veracruz, where I can find liverwurst, salami, roquefort cheese, maybe a frozen Lasagna, dozens of salmon filets and even anchovies.

Eighth, I spend my remaining pesos at the junkfood store across from Plaza America in Veracruz, and buy some decent wines, saurkraut & Mott´s applesauce.

Then I´m exhausted and exasperated and I drink all the wine, eat all the delicacies, and wallow around beautiful downtown Catemaco looking for something different to eat.

Really, would you eat tegogolos every day?

May 10, 2006

Catemaco is a bitch

How the hell do you tell your partner to dump a starved, mauled puppy on mother´s day in beautiful downtown Catemaco?

Easy! You shut up and add an extra mouth to your dog biscuit bill, and hope your friends pick up the discount variety stuff at Sam´s Club in Veracruz.

This is going too far. I already am the sole local sponsor of a local human orphanage. Unwed mothers are rattling my doors. My partner regularly doles out monies to people unable to buy medications on the vaunted Mexican Social Security plan.

And hundreds of dogs roam Catemaco streets. Everybody has a dog, or maybe five. And most owners live in hovels barely large enough to house two human adults. And most of the limping, scurvied, ragtailed, flea bearers roam at will, adding their feces to to what is already a rather unsanitary Laguna Catemaco shore line.

Catemaco desperatly needs more Gringos to move here and adopt dogs. If the Mexican government were in accord with its canine constituents, the time and money consuming visa requirements for Gringos would be waived for anyone willing to "adopt a mutt".

That would be a humane solution and would help alleviate the immigration problem of Gringos illegally crossing the Mexican border and clandestinely owning mutts rightfully belonging to the Mexican national patrimony.

Catemaco crappers

If I had to pay to rent a toilet facility, I would expect cable TV, a selection of current magazines, a height adjustable toilet bowl to accomodate my knees, possibly a karaoke machine, velvet toilet paper, a subservient shoe shiner and a minstrel offering different colognes and warm towels.

Beautiful downtown Catemaco offers at least 30 private rental toilet facilities. But not a single one accomodates my wishful shit list.

Although Catemaco is internationally famous for brujos (witches), its main attraction is a puppet representing a catholic religious person, La Virgen del Carmen (alleged mother of Jesus, who allegedly made an appearance in Catemaco on the day of the Saint Carmen´s birthday, July 16), and is stored within the cathedral on Catemaco´s central square, and only permitted to leave on her holi/birthday, or when someone pays enough to use her in a procession.

Tens of thousands of worshippers, ususally in rental buses, annually visit Catemaco to worship this Virgin. Most are cash strapped campesinos, carrying sandwiches and a few pesos to buy flowers to salute La Virgen. And most arrive here from hundreds of miles away.

Obviously they need some relief. And the enterprising folks of Catemaco have responded. Dozens of entrepreneurs have opened their homes or backyards to construct communal toilets, charging 3 to 5 pesos per sitting, considerably less than what local brujos charge for a spirtual cleaning.

But not a single one offers cable TV or velvet toilet paper. Competition obviously is not a factor. Price fixing is common. This is not like an airline promising more leg room, current movies, or culinary specialties. The offering is simply a ceramic shell, hopefully with a seat and a door, and single sheet paper which may or may not be an option to purchase.

Note after publication:
My partner, a non pracicing, but nevertheless devout catholic, was terribly offended by my use of the term "puppet", (statue/puppet/doll/figurine/marionette) which according to her translates into Spanish as marionette, although my intent was similar to "doll" which would translate to "muneca".

The actual statue/puppet/doll/figurine/marionette is rather small, not particularly attractive, dressed in a fancy costume, and maintained within the Catemaco Basilica, unless on exhibit inside a glass cage on a Catemaco Malecon plaza dedicated to her.

The statue/puppet/doll/figurine/marionette's other appearances around Catemaco are on holidays ordained by the local clergy, or when requested by anyone with sufficient money.

May 9, 2006

Catemaco lavapatas

I recently had the distinct displeasure of remodeling a kitchen in beautiful downtown Catemaco.
I was fortunate to find most plumbing connections, stainless steel sink, faucet, etc., but my wish for a "dish washer" (lava platos) returned me to the 1950´s. None available in the Catemaco area. Next shop would be in Veracruz, Mexico.
Now my experience with buying electrical items in Veracruz has mostly been bad. Each item requires three 220 mile round trips. One to buy it, one to return to fix it, and one to pick it up a few weeks later.
So I mentioned my disappointment to my partner, and her response was: "Why do we need a dish washer?". The maid does the dishes! So I mentioned the benefits of sanitized dish cleaning, clean looking sinks, and labor saving opportunities when the maid does not show up. She remained obstinate, claiming a "lava platos" was a waste of money.
So I tried to compromise. I wear sockless sandals, and my feet are frequently decorated with remnants of Catemaco. I would like a "lavapatas" (foot washer)" I said. The maid does not wash my feet, my gardener will not touch them, and even my car washer rejects them. She said ok. So I hired this nubile young woman at a ridiculouly low Mexican wage to visit twice a day and be my "lavapatas". So now my partner wants a guy to visit twice a day to be a dish washer (lavaplatos). Remodeling is no fun in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

May 3, 2006

Catemaco laundry

Zeigt her eure Füße, zeigt her eure Schuh´, und sehet den fleißigen Waschfrauen zu: Sie waschen, sie waschen, sie waschen den ganzen Tag. My mother used to sing this song to my children. Basically the song describes women who spend much of their life washing clothes for their family. Probably, in her youth, my mother and her mother, in the early 20th century, did exactly that. They washed clothes by hand in any available source of water.
In 2006 the women of Catemaco are living like my mother´s mother, just a hair breadth away from passing humongous Mexican owned 500,000 pesos Utility Vehicles. And beautiful downtown Catemaco celebrates its thousands of bathers on the shores of Laguna Catemaco.
That little bit of washing detergent combined with the e-coli effluent from the Catemaco shores possibly creates a natural chemical mix that one of those neoliberal cosmetic companies should investigate for possible international merchandising as a pesticide.

Catemaco ATM

This is a personal experience from beautiful downtown Catemaco and is probably true anywhere else.

You stick your card in the ATM, punch in your code and amount desired, the machine does "crunch crunch" and NO MONEY comes out.
You kick the machine, yell for the manager and find yourself facing a blank wall.
You check your balance on the internet, and sure enough, your money was deducted.

This scenario has occured to me and an acquantance repeatedly in Catemaco. Both Bancomer and Serfin are culprits in this scam.

This scam only occurs when using a US debit card. It has never happend to me using a Mexican debit card. The Mexican bank, just like its compatriots in the US, will tell you, that it is not their problem and you have to contact the bank that issued the card. Usually that bank will resolve the problem anywhere between 1 and 5 days depending on the quality of the bank. (Screw Bank of America).

The more serious problem arises when you decide to repeat your transaction more than 3 times. Then the Mexican bank machine will hold your card and the management will chop off a piece.

To avoid that, use an ATM that permits you to just slide your card through a reader and returns it to you immediately. If you give your home bank a hard time, they will cancel your card and reissue a new one, which is very unhelpful while vacationing in Mexico and your taste for tacos and beans while sleeping in a hammock is not on your "to do" list.

Catemaco archaeology

So I had four happy well diggers burrowing into Catemaco shores on the "Say No to Gringos" day. 2.5 meters down (9 feet) the water started percolating. I stopped at 3 .5 meters because my suction pump could not fight the water penetrating through primarily gravel layers and I could not convince my soon to be archaeologists to proceed using snorkels. All that for 450 pesos per meter.

In addition, at the 1.2 meter level my well diggers, now known as archaeologists, unearthed a heap of historic artifacts, mostly pottery shards but also some stone objects. And according to them those were minor finds compared to what was found in other wells this troup had dug in beautiful downtown Catemaco.

I wonder what I would find if I turned my itty bitty front yard into an archaeological dig. And I wonder how many treasures have disappeared from most Catemaco construction sites.

My close neighbor, who runs a plant nursery, has a giant heap of pottery shards he collected from trenches he dug. And my partner talks of dozens of mysteriously disappeared finds.

Apparently those who lived here 1000´s of years ago did not have access to those indestructible plastic goodies, Made in China, that are now flooding the beautiful downtown Catemaco stores.