Oh Guau! (that’s “wow!” in Spanish), my Zumba cardio class got me in the Mexico Bicentennial spirit this morning! Today, September 15, is when “El Grito” is celebrated, the cry for independence in 1810. It’s actually celebrated throughout the country at 11pm in local town plazas, grandes y pequenas, and usually the mayor reenacts the cry of Father Hidalgo who encouraged his Indian parishioners in Dolores to rise up and join the insurgents from San Miguel and Queretaro. (President Calderon will issue El Grito in Dolores tonight.) Tomorrow is the official holiday (think July 4th in US) and there are SO MANY parades! I’m a happy camper.
Back to Zumba. I’ve taken Zumba in the US, but there is nothing like doing Zumba in a latin country where the salsa, cha cha, merengue, ranchera, etc., moves are so authentic. I mean, these people don’t go to dance classes to learn these steps, they just KNOW…and I feel like an up-tight Puritan who can only move in my head, not my body. Oh well, it is GREAT exercise, and there are days when I actually think I am loosening up.
There are usually 75-100 people in the class and today most of them were wearing red, white and green (Mexico flag colors) clothes, hair ribbons, sashes, headbands, earrings AND flags on headbands with blinking lights. It was awesome. First tune to get the heart and body parts moving was something that yelled “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”…I think it is something that is played at world soccer games.
It’s been a looong time since I’ve seen this kind of mass patriotic exuberance in the US — this sense of pride and honor in one’s country. No point in addressing possible reasons why that is…but I have to say it was quite an upper being surrounded by citizens who feel so proud of Mexico.
I had been feeling kind of bummed about all the troubles facing Mexico (in spite of the violence their economy is growing by a healthy 4%-ish), and earlier this week I read an article describing lots of citizens in Mexico feeling bummed in this Bicentennial year and that it was nothing to celebrate. In fact, somebody said that “El Grito” really means “Help me!”.
And I asked myself, what can I do to help? And the thought flitted across my consciousness that I could begin with prayer…affirming what I believe is the true identity of all mankind: we are all free, free to be the good and blessed children of the Divine’s creating. We are free from the claims of violence and terror, and free to express the joy, happiness, exuberance and love that the Divine put in each of our hearts.
I saw this today in my Zumba class, I saw it as I walked through the Jardin as tons of people are enthusiastically preparing for tonight and tomorrow’s celebrations. This is the real Mexico: free, joyous, proud.
There is so much I remember about that early September day nine years ago. interestingly, it always comes back to the weather: it was a beautiful early fall Boston day, the sky was so blue and cloudless, the temperature was warm but not sticky hot, my favorite kind of day where I think “This is gonna be a great day!”…it was perfect.
And then it wasn’t perfect. Out of that same cloudless sky came messages of hate, terror and destruction that would last, oh gee, we are nine years and counting.
But that’s not how we climbed out of our pit of sadness, remember? After that first day of shock and horror, in the many days and weeks that followed, the only thing that lifted most of us out of suffocating despair was each one of us doing something — anything — to help someone else in more need. The now-iconic stories of firemen and policemen and everyday citizens rushing INTO burning and falling buildings overwhelmed us with proof that ultimate selflessness is possible in this world.
How many of us said to ourselves, if they can do that, what more can I do? You must remember because there were countless acts of goodness from you to your neighbor, neighbor to neighbor, Christian to Muslim, Jew to Muslim, everyone to anyone. We searched within and found our better selves to guide us.
It just came forth — it was as if a critical mass of people rose up and said, in the face of unmasked hatred, “Enough! If that’s the side you are on, I choose the opposite…I choose good.” There was no middle ground. This was OUR “burning building” to rush into…it felt good to be on this side and be counted with, what do you think? — millions taking a stand for what is right.
So here we are, nine years on, September 11, 2010. And I am bewildered. The big news of the day is 1.) whether or not a Muslim community can build their mosque in the general (very general) area of Ground Zero in NYC, and 2.) a Florida pastor and his church community of 50 or so people encouraging a day of Koran burning (he has since cancelled his plans.)
What in God’s name happened…to us?
Is this all we can muster as a proper remembrance for a day and aftermath that impacted three generations of Americans? Oh I can hear all the explanations as to how we got here from there because they are in my head too: two foreign wars, allegedly to stamp out the perpetrators of terrorism; divisive black/white politics; fear-filled unresolved issues like immigration.
We are better than this. We proved it before. Let’s link arms with each other, help each other to rise and find ways to be better than those who hate. One important BIG step is to remember and value all the acts of heroism and kindness you witnessed. Then remember all the good that you did post-911. Dont ever forget what you did and why you did it. And then, on this day, September 11, 2010 go out and do it again.
“For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all the peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves.”
— Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)
(See this quote on an e-card.)
OMG, I love a parade. And, evidently, so do the Mexicans. There are lots of kinds of parades celebrating religious saints, cultural fiestas and political-social events. Some small and homey, others pretty big and organized. Yet another reason why I love living in Mexico!
Today’s parade du jour celebrated the birthday of Ignacio Allende, leader of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. This day is a VERY big deal here…and especially since this is the Bicentennial of Independence. Allende instigated “El Grito” on September 15, 1810, the cry to arms which launched the war.Think George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson all rolled into one. Unfortunately, Allende did not live to see the ultimate independence of Mexico from Spain as he was caught and executed in 1811 and independence didn’t happen until 1821.
And, REALLY a big deal: Allende was born in San Miguel de Allende, which was called San Miguel Grande until 1826 when the city was renamed in his honor. I am not sure how other cities celebrated Allende’s birthday, if they did at all. But we have a school holiday and a big parade with thousands of people lining the parade route which wound throughout the city and ended at city hall, right on the Jardin….the heart of San Miguel.
From the very start I realized this parade was gonna be very different than others I have seen. It was led by the national army in full gear: troops, humvees and small fast trucks, all troops in full defense uniforms and armament (Ak-47s, machine guns and grenade launchers). Many of the troops wore masks so they could not be identified. Then we had the local police, and another group of police.
Now, I am from a long-serving military family: dad in WWII, then served in the Army Reserves for 25 years; brother an army officer before serving in the Foreign Service; husband an officer in the Army during Vietnam. So I am ok with the need for a country to exhibit its willingness and ability to defend its shores.
And, geez louise, Mexico has had a long history of being invaded by foreign countries: Spain for 300 years, then soon thereafter the US (hey, how do you think the US got California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?) and France.
Not only have they fought foreigners, but they have had civil wars: the Reforma in the mid 19th century and then the Revolution beginning in 1910. And, Mexico is at war again, the narco wars. Oh phew, this country needs so much love!
So, the military set the tone for the rest of the marching field: drum and bugle corps from almost every school in San Miguel, from primary to secondary to college. All of course in their school uniforms. And the big finish were the mounted regiments: Dragones de la Reina, Ignacio Allende’s honored regiment dressed in 18th century uniforms, and the present day Heroic Colegio Militar (Military College, I am guessing like West Point).
These guys were pretty impressive and garnered the most applause of the day. About 50 troops in ceremonial uniforms, up on big matched Bay thoroughbreds. BTW, usually you see in Mexico the smaller, quicker quarterhorses, so these horses were special. Not only that, on each of their croups (hind end), the horse hair had been clipped in a harlequin pattern, like a blanket. I have never seen that.
The parade presented the military might of the past (Allende’s compadres, the Dragones) and the present (the military college and the Army). Important, I am sure, to reinforce to the citizenry that Mexico can take care of herself.
But the future in any country relies on the education of its children, no? I love seeing the kids in parades because it is evident there is so much pride in the culture, the heritage, the accomplishments of Mexico. It’s stirring and humbling because it is so present….there is no forgetting why we are where we are and what we are to honor: the values, the tradition, the dignity — and the patriots who sacrificed everything to make this happen.
And so, what will the children of today be called upon to defend in the future? The motivation to protect all the good that Mexico represents is being instilled and nurtured right now. I have great expectations for Mexico….
After I had witnessed a disastrous event, I blurted out to a good friend and spiritual thinker, “Why does this crap happen??” And he responded with a sigh, “Because it is part of the human condition…and it is our job as spiritual thinkers to help lift ourselves and others out of the trauma and into a better place, mentally and practically.”
Phew. Big job. But what is the point of prayer if it isn’t helping you be better so that you can help others be better?
In fact, one thing about disasters: they bring people together to become the best of who they are, individually and collectively. Haiti is the present demand for all of us to do what is our best and highest concept of our better selves.
Here’s another thing about disasters: often they bring forgotten or neglected areas/peoples of the world on to the radar screen of those countries/people that are better able to give money, health supplies, organizational expertise. If there are political differences between countries, they are suspended while the people are cared for. And since the effect of huge disasters takes time to overcome and rebuild (infrastructure, buildings, social systems), those offering help are in it for the long haul. It’s a long-term commitment and responsibility. Done right, the poor countries or regions are no longer neglected.
(This is likely the reason why the government of Myanmar would not allow foreign help when the country was devastated by the effects of a huge cyclone in May 2008. While the government maintains its control, the people suffer.)
Ok, so what can I do right now? Prayer is the way I get my head straight so I can know what action to take. Prayer guides me to good action. At this moment, I am affirming that the Haitian people are loved by the divine Spirit — they always have been, no matter what the human condition. They have done nothing that makes them vulnerable to a disaster — they are innocent and only the beneficiary of God’s abundant goodness.
Some may ask, “So where was God when this earthquake struck? If He is all powerful, how could He let this happen?” This is a big big question and the only reasoning that helps me is to accept that in this human experience, crappy things happen all the time. But to overcome them, to lessen their negative effect and be lifted out of the misery, turning toward the allness and goodness of divine Love leads the way upward to a better experience. Mistakes, broken systems, necessary infrastructure — all are repaired beneficially when powerful prayers lead the way.
What happens when a child has a serious accident? Does not his loving parent do everything in their power to comfort them and provide help? If a human parent does this, would not the divine Parent of all of us be willing and capable of doing this …and more?
So, to be my better self is to be vigilant in my prayers for Haiti, joining with thousands who are doing the same, I am sure. I expect that the effect of all these prayers will be to guide those who are providing aid with the best ideas and action plans to practically make a difference for good. I am also sending money…and being poised to hear what next the divine Parent wants me to do to help lift my Haiti family out of this present condition.
Okay, I am back. No point in describing all that has happened in the past 6 months or so since my last blog…yes, a lot has happened but I also have observed that many casual bloggers (like, non-commercial, blog-to-get-the-thoughts-out-of-my-head types) fade in and out of cyberspace. SOOOO, now I am feeling like getting the thoughts rattling around in my head out of there. For the time being.
We still live in Mexico and still love it. A lot. Even more than when we first arrived, exactly one year ago. But now, instead of living on the beach (west coast), we live in the middle in the mountains, in San Miguel de Allende. This is a 500-year old colonial city with a very rich history and cultural tradition. In fact, it is called El Corazon de Mexico, not only because of its geological location (practically dead-center), but because of its heritage. This region is where the War for Independence — El Grito — was sounded in 1810. Think Paul Revere in Boston, but add in Philadelphia, New York and whoever else had a stake in the American Revolution and you get an idea.
We came here in August just for 3 weeks to go to language school at Warren Hardy. Side-note: this is the BEST school for folks who have been out of the discipline of schoolwork for many years. Mi esposo y yo LOVED it.
OK, 3 weeks turned into two more months. Why? First off, the weather is incredible — warm most of the year except for January-February when it is cool (hey, we are in the mountains, 5500 feet!). But after we got used to the weather, the appeal is really the people, the diversity of culture, the 500-year architecture and the wealth of heritage and tradition. At one point we looked at each other and said, “this is Mexico!”.
While I love the beach, the water, the sun, this area is incredibly stimulating and rich in learning and activities.
It’s funny, but I had heard about San Miguel for several years and dismissed it as a “gringo hangout”. While there are a lot of norteamericanos (yeah, there is a REASON!), percentage-wise it is a muy pequeno slice of the population. I speak more spanish here than on the coast where, because it is mostly geared to the tourist industry, lots of locals speak english.
After several days we thought, “why dont we spend the winter here and see how we like it?” Just thinking like that was actually pretty liberating: there was nothing mandating that we be on the coast — we were just renting and all our business activity is on the web. One thing that we were truly going to miss was all our friends on the coast…Sue, Larry, Eddie, Roberto, Ann, Carolyn, Jonathan, Kim, Chris y mas….But then we thought, hey we will just bring them here! They will DEFINITELY want to escape the humid (and I mean HUMID) coast in the summer. Which is 5 months or so.
Turns out it is more than just the winter — we decided to move here 🙂
I am not surprised how this worked out….I had been praying very specifically for many months about how to learn spanish more effectively. It seemed to be a struggle, even though I was taking a conversation class 3 days a week in San Pancho. It wasnt just because I wanted to learn another language as a skill — the POINT was/is to be more effective in expressing ideas, more to the point, metaphysical ideas, with local people. It is that important to me.
When we started at our language school, I knew from the first day that this was the right place to learn. And then it has become easier and easier to listen and speak here in San Miguel. It felt to me, then, that being here was an answer to my prayers.
Language school continues — I start the 4th level in February (Subjunctive Verbs, which is 7 tenses — I learned the first 7 tenses through Level 3). and THEN total immersion classes.
Another indication that this is home: a quasi-feral cat adopted us at our rental last fall. Guapo is about two-years old and he is the most loving and expressive cat I have ever had. We brought him to our new casa and he is now an inside cat. Solomente. More on Guapo and our spiritual healing experiences. Right now he is sitting on my desk watching me.
What I love most about Mexico is that it requires me to be very present with God in my consciousness: God as Mind (Wisdom communicating Itself to all), God as Love (unconditional care and guidance), and God as Life (the omni-action of good). Everyday brings physical proof of this spiritual activity.
More to come.
Oh yes, this is a very interesting eco-system. Well, maybe the relative way to say it is, this eco-system is NADA like living in the big city. First, the cuadimundi (quadimundi, “el tejon”), then the frogs in the toilet (“ranas”) — did I blog about them? No? — and now the land crabs.
And no point mentioning the various sizes of gecko living in the palapa roof. Hah, the other nite we were watching TV and I heard this subtle “splat”. Looked over and there was a small gecko on the tile floor looking like he had just gotten his bell rung really hard. Ken went over to pick him up and he scurried away. So, todo esta bien, yo pienso.
Back to the cangritos de la tierra. Last night we had our first big thunder/lightening storm since living here. This is what will be pretty common for the summer months as this is when the coast gets all the water for the year. This being a jungle, I imagine we will get a LOT of rain.
We watched it come from the west (just below Cabo San Lucas) for a few hours before it arrived with big thunder, crashing, lights, water. At one point, it cracked HUGE overhead and we saw a burst of light — looking like it had either incinerated the clothesline or the BBQ grill. (Neither as it turns out.)
Lost electricity after that….didnt come back on until, oooh, 11:00AM or so. But that is not the story. We decided to go out for breakfast to the next town over (Sayulita). Walked to the car in the driveway and there are hundreds, seriously, of land crabs skittering here and there. They are everywhere.
Here’s the funny thing. First, they are way bigger than I thought they would be (people have told us about being in the middle of land crab migrations), anywhere from 2″ (claw to claw) to 5″-6″. Seriously. Yeah, I know, this isnt funny yet. OK, they are really fast sideways, forward, backward. And very good about defending themselves, reaching up to pinch anything that looks like it is attacking (we are trying to move them away from the car and to safe places).
Finally, and here is the funny part: they really DO have eyes on the top of their carapace (the shell body), like, just stuck there on top rising up from the shell, not imbedded or protected — kind of like an afterthought or Mr. Potatohead. I mean, I have seen animated crabs in movies (think Finding Nemo) look like this but I always thought they designed the bugeyes as a caricature. No.
Here’s the story: they live in the earth, burrowed down, until the rain comes. This really confuses them I guess because they dont want to be IN the water, just moist earth. So, the water is coming and this sends some kind of signal to rise up (Agua! Agua! Agua!) Not coincidentally, I think, this is their mating season and they are SUPPOSED to leave the earth and go to the sea. But, adding to the confusion, we are on a hill maybe 50 feet away and 100 feet above the sea.
All day, yes, hundreds of them are wandering around in the yard and house (seriously, again) looking to get back to the earth and find the sea. Those eyes on the top of their head arent helping much.
We are not sure what the protocol is — like, what do the locals do about them. But, mi esposo is all about saving and helping living creatures (geckos, ranas, spiders, you-name-it) and I admit it has rubbed off on me after 39 years. So we have been spending the day shooing them out of the house and down to the earth (off the deck). In fact, I can hear their little claws scratching the door to my office as I write 😉
What is VERY interesting is watching these little guys react to the human force looming over them. The fear is so obvious as their claws and legs (4 extra, need two to stand) flail about and their little tiny mouths gape open. Oh gosh, my heart goes out to them because I KNOW I am only going to help them be in a better place but they dont know this.
It makes me think How many times am I afraid when there is something happening I dont understand….and truly the presence of the Divine is all around me, protecting me and helping me get to a better place, but I am so afraid I cant even see it and can only flail my arms…?
Well, life lessons so often come from nature which is why, in spite of this VERY interesting eco-system, I am grateful to be here, learning them.
OK, I am really amped up about a particularly virulent dimension of the Swine Flu situation throttling the globe right now.
This is having to do with Mexico. “Everyone” is blaming Mexico for being ground zero of the outbreak. The US is not only the most vocal, one of the House Democrats from New York actually advocates shutting the border! Uh, first immigration, then the drug violence (which, ahem, is largely due to the ease of guns and artillery purchased in the US, to say nothing about the huge market for drugs in the US), and now disease are the reasons to slam the border door closed.
People, people, people! Will quarantining an entire country actually make a difference? This is clear evidence of fear running so amok that common decency, neighborly care and frankly logical thinking has disappeared.
I had lunch with a friend of mine today who had heard a Mexican government official say that Mexico is very embarrassed that this purported epidemic is being blamed on Mexico.
Again, people! Doesnt this make you want to HELP not blame? It sure does me.
I cant possibly discourse on how the World Health Organization can determine where a disease actually “starts” (and I am not sure that WHO has actually proclaimed that Mexico is the place), but I do know that hammering on individuals or an entire country ferhevvinssake gets in the way (i.e. closes the mind) of figuring out ways to help.
There needs to be a complete transformation of thinking about Mexico, and now is the time to start.
Enough with the immigration issues: anyone who works in the US and gets a paycheck PAYS TAXES. Which is more than can be said for the thousands of Americans who own property in Mexico and make money from vacation rentals (this is a lot of money and many Americans are not paying taxes here. Hint: the Mexican government has figured this out!)
Stop with the cluck-clucking about the drug violence as if this is some “phenomenon” unique to Mexico. The Mexican government is taking on a HUGE and courageous endeavor to eradicate the long-standing drug industry that has become so gynormous because the market demand for illegal drugs in the US is so huge. Not only that, the drug cartels’ demand for armament to enforce its power comes from…wait for it….the huge supply in the US! Even President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have admitted that Mexico’s drug violence problem is largely due to the US’ insatiable demand for drugs AND gunpower. (Errr, who’s got the problem here???)
Offer a hand to help our southern neighbor in its time of crisis. This is NOT the time to withdraw behind closed doors and masks. This IS the time to help. If you pray for care, support and ideas, as I do, then PRAY. At the very least, help to change people’s thoughts about blaming Mexico and think about Mexicans as next-door neighbors who desperately need help, not derision and blame.
Each person who begins to connect with Mexico by offering a helping hand will make a difference, person by person, heart by heart. Be that person.
Abrazos y besos.