Monthly Archives: October 2010

In my humble opinion…

In my humble opinion… there are some real whackos out there.

 Today’s topic is not one I want to address but a recent article I read on someone else’s blog got me all fired up. I’m not going to cite the site but I will tell you that it proposed a “novel solution” to the illegal immigration issue. Simply finish what President Polk “so admirably did in 1848”… This guy actually advocates invasion and the annexing the rest of Mexico to the USA! Another of his surprising solutions is to overdose all the drug addicts “so we won’t have to look after ‘em no more…”  

God, give me strength!

There are many injustices in our world. So many in fact that our pea brains cannot cope. We tend to tune out because; well… we have to continue functioning. If we allowed ourselves to dwell non-stop on our planet’s failure to live in harmony, we’d soon be blathering away in some psych ward. It’s too daunting.

But from time to time I need to take stock. There are unending news reports about the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, the war on poverty, the war on corruption, the war on arms escalation… Yea Gads there are a lot of wars raging – right here in my back yard! And I blithely go about my business. With these five wars plus the other ones that are out there such as war on diseases, the war on obesity, the war on aging etc., etc. –  how is it possible that I’m out walking around? Shouldn’t I be holed up in a bunker?

Obviously I’m not because the aforementioned are NOT wars. These are issues our region faces and our society is attempting to resolve them (pardon me) ass backwards. The whole mess we’re in continues to worsen, despite the billions of dollars our governments spend. Why?

If there’s one situation I cannot abide it is missed opportunities. I get so upset when I see people carry on feuds that could be laid to rest through negotiation… money squabbles that could be resolved by sensible spending… relationships that could be rewarding if there was mutual appreciation. None of this is rocket science. It involves pride. “Pride goeth before a fall” …  and are we ever groveling around in the dirt!

Pride and arrogance – the root of all evil in my books. Why can’t our leaders accept and admit that the established patterns are NOT working. Our nations need to negotiate, budget sensibly and respect one another.

’Want to see something really frightening this Halloween? Take a gander at  You’ll see that the “war” on drugs has cost $42,356,788,965 so far this year.

 In August, US Congress authorized an additional $60,000,000.00 to be spent on border control. Come on people! Doesn’t the expression “throwing good money after bad” ring any bells?

Maybe we’d see much more progress if these astronomical amounts of money were spent on drug rehabilitation? Or if the wretched stuff was legalized and the “forbidden allure” was lost maybe less people would get hooked in the first place. If the heinous border security allocation was invested in business on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande productivity would rise and jobs would be available here. Except for the “adventurers”, Mexicans would not leave their villages to live as despised “aliens” north of the border.

And finally, it is NOT entirely up to our governments… we have to take personal responsibility too. Most people are just like me… we let others fight the dragons. Our lack of activism allows the dinosaurs to remain in office and thwarts change.

I do not advocate marches and mayhem… I’ve realized that the power of the pen is so much more effective. Make your voices heard. When you vote, demand change. President Obama was elected with a “Yes we can” rhetoric. Since his election, the voice from Capitol Hill has been a resounding, “Oh no-o-o-o-o-o you can’t!” He says over and over again he cannot affect change on his own… and he can’t. No one can. We need to help.

For a global overview… check out some of these links:

If you want to help real change, boot up your keyboards and tell your elected officials how you really feel or if you want to, forward this post to them.

The image at the top is Carlos’… the one on the bottom is mine.


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Like everything in life, the Day of the Dead is undergoing changes – it isno longer celebrated only in the traditional way .  Some argue that this is a shame, but I see it as a reflection of our BIG multicultural world.

Take our college for example. The students spend as much time online as they do in the “real” world. I think it stands to reason they will be impacted by all they see there. And so we have (as one student put it)  a new “fusion” holiday called “Hallow´pixan

This new name comes from combining Halloween (our Anglo name for the holiday at this time of year)  and Hanal Pixan (The Maya name that means food for the dead)

Some groups held fast to tradition with their altar displays while others carved pumpkins – very creatively! Certainly there’s room for both in our world…







Photos by Aris and Pamela at TTT                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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Todos Santos

On Friday evening (October 29th) about 200 altars will be set up along the roadside, from La Ermita (the Pilgrim’s Church) to El Panteón Florida (The Cemetery). Everyone is invited to stroll and visit between 6:30 and 9:00 pm.  The streets will be closed to traffic.

Villages, schools, government agencies will all take part in U Xiimbahil PixanoóbEl Paseo de las Animas (The Departed Souls’ Way).

This is a chance to partake in one of the most beautiful traditions of Yucatan. Those new to the area may wonder what it is all about…

In all corners of Mexico, Los Finados – the Last Days, (also known as Días de Muertos or Todos Santos ) is a cherished tradition. Celebrated in Yucatan from October 31 – November 2; this three day period is dedicated to the memory of the faithful departed. (Los Angelitos –  dead children are remembered October 31, los Santos – the saints on November 1st, and las Animas – all Souls on November 2nd)

Where I come from in Canada, death is rather a solemn topic but solemnity was not what I witnessed during my first year living in Merida (1976). Of the many new customs I learned about, one of the most unusual was Los Finados.  Jorge was on a trip and my mother in law insisted I come to spend the day with the family…

I helped her to drag an old table into the living room which she quickly covered with one of her best, bright white table cloths. On top of this, she placed vases of flowers, candles, framed photographs, a big crucifix and I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out that this was an altar of some kind.  Then we went into the kitchen where all manner of food prep was in progress.

I was given a huge pile of bean pods and asked to shell them – I was told that my job was “muy importante” – very important. I shelled and shelled for more than an hour, after which I had a couple of cups of small black beans. “¡Excelente!” Doña Bertha said.

The beans (espelón) were worked into a huge pile of corn dough… spices and lard got mixed in too and the huge blob was pressed into flat tin sheets, lined with banana leaves. Pieces of chicken, tomatoes, onion, long yellow peppers and herbs were laid down. A corn gravy was ladled on and then all was covered with another layer of dough and banana leaves. Into the oven the great pies went…

Atole (corn gruel) Calabaza Melada (candied squash) a chocolate drink and other accompaniments were also lovingly prepared. I had no idea what was going on but after several months, I’d learned it was better not to ask. The torrent of Spanish explanation was pretty much lost on me – better to wait until Jorge was around and could explain in English.

After a couple of hours, the crispy “pie” was ready and a big chunk was cut off and placed on the altar with the other food items that had been concocted that morning. To my surprise, a bottle of rum, cigarettes, a pack of cards and a domino set was also laid down. “Para mi papa,” I was told. “For my father”… What was she talking about?

And then it dawned on me what was happening. Today was All Saints Day! I could hold back the questions no longer. As slowly and carefully as possible, Doña Bertha explained that the altar was for the spirits who would visit over the next two days… She was ready to receive them with the food, drink and entertainment they had loved during their lifetimes. Did she really believe the faithful departed would cross over? Yes she did and so did everyone else in the household. I was careful not to let my suspicions show.

We went to the cemetery to place flowers and say prayers at the gravesites. Doña Bertha actually introduced me to the occupants of the tombs – “Look Mama, this is Joanna, Jorge’s girlfriend from Canada.” I was getting pretty freaked out.

Back from the graveyard, I found Jorge waiting for us… “Are we going to eat the pib now,” he asked his mother. Ah that’s what the pie is called, I thought… We all said a few more prayers at the altar then left the spirits to dine in peace in the living room while we ate in the kitchen. The pib was delicious. As we ate, the family talked about “las animas.” They seemed to believe the spirits were actually amongst them. I chose to believe it too and why not?

Doña Bertha told me once, “Sometimes when I least expect it, a little breath of air blows down my arm and the face of someone who has passed jumps into my mind. I know the puff of air was their greeting.” This seems to comfort her and she doesn’t pine for her loved ones who are gone. To her, especially during the days of the dead, they are present and accompanying her como siempre – as always.

Images: I do not have any digital photos of our family’s celebrations. What I’ve included are a sample of typical shots  taken during the Days of the Dead in different parts of the country. The black & white image (Yucatan) and the night time cemetary shot (Michoacan) are  from the Internet. The others are from my albums, taken by my son Carlos… 


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