Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hard Time Picturing History

All my life I have wondered what the past was really like. As a kid, we read a lot of books and many took me to places I thought I would have never been able to see and some of those places have become reality. However, being "there" and being "then" are two different things.

My three days in Dr. Arroyo had me do some heavy thinking. As I took my walks around the town in the early morning hours, I had a feel of what maybe some of that past history was like. You see, in some of rural Mexico, people still live some of their daily lives just as the world did 150 years ago. In fact, some of the teachers who participated in the course came from far away by bus from ranches where they still use kerosene lanterns, walk a couple of kilometers to make a phone call at a caseta or privately owned phone booth. They tell me stories of herding goats now after having lived in Indiana for 13 years. They're happy now, although they long for the "good" life, meaning fancy cars and conveniences. They seem torn between the "then" and the "now" of the world having had the best of both. When they ask for more hours and I tell them there is a school but no road, they say that's okay as they can ride a horse. Yes, we still have many one room schools with only five students from first grade to sixth grade. Funny isn't it but at the same time the past history that I wish I could have known. So it is still alive and still exists. Tangible yet distance.

As I took these walks, one thing was obvious to me. Although people live in a town with paved streets, electricity, satellite television and constant use of cell phones, many homes still use leña (wood) for heating and cooking in their homes. It is a pleasant yet pungent odor at times. There is something about the aroma of eggs cooked on a wood fire mixed with the crackling of fresh ground corn tortillas, and by that I mean yellow corn not processed Maseca. In the past they would have burned mesquite, now they burn any product that is made from cellulose emitting dangerous chemicals, glues and odors. I realized today on my way home, the jacket I was wearing was permeated with smoke as if I had been by a campfire all night. BTW, my hotel room had no heat but had one of those fuzzy Mexican blankets with the tiger's face on it. I always thought they were cheap having never used one. Very warm and toasty I might add.

So, I was kind of taken back a bit in time over the last three days. I have had the "on the ranch in the mountains of Mexico" experience before and it is one of lasting memories. "Christo", as they call me, "do you want something to eat?". The next thing I hear is the baying of a young goat as it is slaughtered just meters from the fire I am next to, to keep warm. It really is the way it was, at least in some ways.

There are remains in Dr. Arroyo of houses made from adobe. There is even new construction built around existing homes of adobe, and when I ask they say it is because they use the remains for the bedrooms, because they know the qualities of adobe and how it cools in the summer and warms in the winter.

At the Hotel Plaza, the owners gave me a quick tour of the photos dating back to the 1860s of their family. Can you imagine, you live in the same hotel your great-great-great-grandparents and beyond created? This particular hotel was awarded a stipend from the state with matching funds from the owner to maintain it as an historic site. I can't imagine seeing my family in photos that far back. Although I have a friend who traced his origins back to the 1600s in Ireland and then went to meet his ancestors.

But I've gotton off track with this. My point was going to be that I am glad we aren't wood cookers anymore. It must of gotten really bad with all the smoke and smell, not to mention the dust and horse manure. I like some of the conveniences we have and I was reminded of this when Kevin and Ruth were here this week with their motorhome now powered by solar panels and batteries. Maybe we have found the new past, where you can disconnect, not be a slave to the "owners" of modern convenience but reap the benefits.

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