Saturday, November 11, 2006


Administrative note: the reasons there's been little activity in this blog's other column lately is because I've been concentrating on getting two year's worth of photographs uploaded to Flickr. Time is getting short, and I'm pushing to finish this before returning to the US (captions have been regulated to another timeline altogether, sad to say). Over the last week I've added another hundred fifty-ish pictures, and I'll hopefully be matching that by early next week. Interested in seeing photos of the dinosaur bones at the Desert Museum in Saltillo? Please take a look. Tonight we had dinner at the boss' house, a seven thirty engagement to which we could not arrive late. So, an hour beforehand, we decided to go shopping downtown at the Gandhi Bookstore and clean them out of masked wrestling movies. Some Méxicana for our future household. We are now the proud owners of about fifteen new Santo movies, and I'm particularly excited about Santo Versus the Wolf Women. Monterrey traffic is pretty harsh right before seven on Friday night, and it was a rush to dash home again, dress, and then make the dinner party one minute early; but we somehow persevered (how? Some pretty aggressive, some might say fluent, driving was involved). For his part, Sunshine's boss had just returned from a special function with Schwarzenegger, who's made good on his campaign promise to visit México after his improbable landslide victory. Apparently, among his scores of entourage, he travels with a special effects coordinator. Nothing says "governor" like gel spots and mineral smoke. Dinner was really swell, incidentally. The hosts even provided a special fish dinner for yours truly when they discovered that I would not be able to eat the whole roast pig they'd specially ordered. The drive home was less energetic. [Cavin]

Friday, November 10, 2006


The very first sort-of social thing I did within this Monterrey community after arriving almost nineteen months ago was attending a going-away party for a number of Sunshine's coworkers who were returning to the US. This group going-away party was interesting because I met a hundred people for the first time and tried to memorize at least half of their names, fully knowing that many of them were people I might never see again. Separating the people I needed to remember the next week from the people who were leaving was even more difficult than just being expected to know everyone. Well, the circuit is completing. I've just returned from the first of four going-away gatherings planned over the next month. This one was for Sunshine's coworker Matt, the man who drove me over the border when I moved here almost two years ago. This parting wasn't very painful because we will be working closely with Matt when we are all back in DC shortly. Then tomorrow night's thing will be a sort-of catchall party for Matt and Sunshine and others leaving soon. Then Sunshine has a going-away (of a sort) shindig next Monday that I will probably not attend. Lastly, sometime in December, we will have a party thrown exclusively for us. It's a string of engagements that will be bittersweet, the socially distant nature of this life--always coming or going--really moving to the forefront. During tonight's party, a new coworker who arrived on the job only today experienced her first community event here. She's slated to replace Matt, actually. She was being confronted by one hundred names. She handled herself with greater aplomb than I probably managed nineteen months ago, but I still commiserate. You don't have to remember my name, Stephanie. I'm leaving. [Cavin]

Thursday, November 09, 2006


If I may be permitted another complaint about the bus that held us in captive misery between Morelia and Monterrey recently: only one of five things played on the little bus TV (four movies and an X-Files episode), all US releases--and, in one case, an Oscar-winner--were dubbed into Spanish. I'm used to watching extravagantly bad American movies on Mexican busses but usually they are artfully subtitled. The fact that many of these movies were built around flamboyant traffic accidents would've been charming if I'd been able to follow along. The one movie in English was turned down too low to hear, even though the television was so close I hit it with my head whenever I adjusted my seat. Monoglot whining aside, I'd really prefer the superior Mexican flare of what we watched tonight at Big Slice: it was composed exclusively of these scenes: a) a woman runs down a street, right or left; b) man holds a gun on another, hog-tied, man; d) a woman holds a gun on another, bullet-brassiered, woman; e) a black jaguar menaces someone in a warehouse; and f) a worms-eye view of various people firing off-screen with pump shotguns. There was volume but almost no dialog, amounting to a rather hypnotic effect. New paragraph: I wouldn't normally bother you with US news, but wow, guys, what a very pointed election.* I would like to take this opportunity to extend a personal farewell to Rumsfeld,* which the rest of you need not read: please let the door smack your warmongering ass, guay. In Mexican news, god seems to be weighing-in on the old Oaxacan situation: a five-point-three magnitude earthquake rattled downtown today,* felt as far away as the nation's capital. I believe, currently, it's the federal government who occupies those territories. [Cavin]

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


We ate a nice dinner tonight at Genoma, where I had rigatoni and also ate all of Sunshine's onion rings. Lately, dinner conversation has revolved around all the things we have to do. There was a time when I'd have typed "upcoming things," but that is no longer the case. Sunshine has something less than twenty workdays before we move back home (and in any event it is only slightly over a month till the minute we actually start the car and drive north). There is a terrifying number of things to accomplish between now and then. Thus, this topic has invaded every recent dinnertime conversation much the same way it's beginning to invade this blog: I don't spend the time talking the specifics of all the things we have to do, just repeating, with dread, that sheer amounts of requirements loom. I'm not going into every little thing here, now; suffice to say that, if I wanted to, and the calendar notations prove accurate, I could probably go ahead and write these daily updates through Christmas right this minute. It's that tightly planned. So, on to the unpredictable news: I guess I should mention that several grenades were detonated in an apartment building in Ixtapa yesterday, and that no one was hurt.* In my update yesterday I forgot to mention that the best-three-out-of-five bombs that exploded in México City Monday also produced no injuries. I hear a rumor that there was a daylight shootout in the greater Monterrey metro area yesterday, too, although I will be damned if the English-speaking papers I cite are carrying stories about our narco war anymore. All I can find are news stories about the Oaxaca protest***** and other news stories about how Oaxaca stories are not being picked-up by US media.* [Cavin]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Over last month I watched movies instead of reading the news, under the assumption that situations that had not changed for months were unlikely to inconveniently do so just as I looked the other way. The long story of protest in Oaxaca continued to intensify soap operatically: remember the coalition of leftist unions flying their flag (reading APPO) over the city center, disallowing state police access to the capital, and demanding the ouster of the Oaxacan governor? Remember the long march to México City, after which several senators flew to Oaxaca to scout the situation and see what, if anything, could be done to fire the Governor? They said he might could be canned if evidence enough existed of Oaxaca’s government losing control of the state. This seemed to me very much like the senate giving the protestors carte blanche to prove themselves ungoverned; but soon enough the senators took it all back: Ruiz could not be constitutionally removed. This disrupted positive negotiations between the APPO and the fed: Oaxacans had been planning to allow federal police enforcement into the city center (anything but Ruiz's thugs, I guess), while teachers had been planning on returning to classrooms for the first time since May. Instead, the APPO found themselves re-entrenching. Now things are beginning to do whatever they do after they've been boiling for months: on October 27th a US journalist was killed while filming a shootout between protestors and undercover gunmen.* His death incited federal police to forcibly occupy downtown Oaxaca on Sunday.* Currently protestors are holed-up in the local university,* and yesterday there was a giant march that ended peacefully.* However, three bombs simultaneously detonated around México City early today* (two more were defused by anonymously-warned police), and leftists organizations sympathetic to the APPO are claiming responsibility.* [Cavin]

Monday, November 06, 2006

Week Through Sunday

Coming home from vacation is always a struggle, I guess, but the late afternoon bus from Morelia to Monterrey was special. At first, there was no air-conditioning, and the temperature got up to the mid-nineties for several hours. Also, the military took their sweet time searching everything when we crossed the Michoacán border (I assume owing to the last half-year of burgeoning narco-related trouble in the area). Finally, they switched us all to a better bus--well, a cooler one at any rate--but by then travel lag and the much cooler temperatures in Pátzcuaro had left me with a cold; I spent the rest of the trip balancing a scratchy pink bag of breakable purchases in misery. But that’s enough whining. Our vacation was great: Michoacán is a rolling landscape of patchwork agriculture studded with lakes and carpeted by wildflowers. The sky was always clear in the warm afternoons and temperatures typically dropped to a seasonal cool (in the low fifties) after dark. The town of Pátzcuaro is located about an hour from the state capital, Morelia, and about half an hour from the dance floor in Uruapan where gangsters tossed a number of severed heads recently. It is also located three K from the pretty but endangered Lago Pátzcuaro. It is this lake that has served as the ancestral home to the Tarascan (now Purépecha) Indians since the time of the Aztecs, and their little stone villages dot the shore (and a couple of the lake’s islands). One island, Janitzio, is a vacation destination for thousands of tourists every November, when the little town of Pátzcuaro swells for a week into a crafts-and-flowers festival of staggering proportion, mostly related to los Días de Muertos. Think “Mardi Gras in Halloween town.” It was worth catching a cold. [Cavin]