Monday, November 30, 2009

A photo exhibition we almost attended

As a rap-up to Mochica Identity Week 2009 there was a photo exhibition held this morning in the auditorium of the Lambayeque Regional Government complex. It was scheduled to begin at 10:00am, but because nothing starts on time in Peru we arrived at 11:30.

We were just in time to see the maintenance crew removing the last of the chairs. The exhibition had finished at 11:00. But if we had been on time, this is the room where we would have seen the photos depicting whatever it was they were depicting. I’m sure we would have been impressed. In normal times this is also the room where discussions, debates and decisions take place regarding the governing of the entire Lambayeque Region. The only discussion we heard was the maintenance crew trying to decide when to break for lunch.

The complex itself is very attractive. Instead of one massive building it is comprised of many smaller offices – as I understand it one office for each department. The buildings and landscape are well cared for.

Another maintenance crew was setting up for the big banquette tonight to mark the finish of the week and to honor participants and other contributors. I don’t know what time the banquette is scheduled to begin but it doesn’t matter because we’re not invited. Not that we expected to be invited. True, we had a lengthy discussion with the Director of Tourism for the Lambayeque Region earlier in the week, and with the sub-manager of the Chiclayo Department of Tourism. We also agreed to get together in the future to kick around more tourism ideas, but that didn’t obligate them to invite us. Still, they seem to have forgotten the time I spent posing for those stupid photos and being humiliated on national TV on Tradition Day when I had to explain I don’t speak Spanish! They could have invited us!! WOULD IT HAVE KILLED THEM TO INVITE US?!...HUH?! THEY CAN’T AFFORD TWO MORE LOUSY PLATES OF FOOD?! I HOPE THEY CHOKE ON THEIR RICE WITH DUCK…THOSE INGRATES!!!


Friday, November 27, 2009

The Preservation of Tradition.

If you were to ask me what I like most about Peru I would probably talk for hours, but ultimately my answer would narrow down to the people. One of the characteristics I admire most about them is their appreciation and respect for their history. Cultural celebrations are common throughout the country, much like the one being held this week in Chiclayo’s Plazuela Elias Aguirre park. “Semana de la Identidad Muchik 2009” (Mochica Identity Week) marks the seventh anniversary of the Lambayeque Region. It is a week-long activity which includes a beauty contest for the title of Miss Lambayeque Region; school presentations featuring displays of various area traditions exhibited by the students under the direction of a faculty advisor, and a photo exhibition of the Region. Awards are given for the best school presentations and photos. I regret that space allows me to focus on only three of the school presentations we saw today, because all of the participating schools did an excellent job of conveying information about the tradition they chose to exhibit.

The school I.E.P. Thor Heyerdahl representing the Tùcume district chose a theme of shamanism or faith healing. The young man acting the part of the shaman was very convincing as he performed various rituals. I had done some reading on this subject and also have had discussions with Maribel and others so can attest to the accuracy of what this young man was doing. I should also mention that shamanism is not a dead tradition. It is practiced widely in Peru and particularly in the northern region.

As an example, when I was encouraged to take part in a cleansing ceremony which lasted about five minutes, the large crowd that had gathered was obviously amused that a gringo was involved in the ritual but their faces also reflected a serious respect for the process they were watching. The man in the photo in front of me is Santos Vera; the most famous shaman in the Lambayeque Region. He died many years ago but is still revered by believers. He is reputed to have had discussions with the devil.

Even though I am not yet Peruvian, I am grateful for people like Professora Luisa Rosa Sosa Llùncor (pictured on the left) who not only take the time to organize and participate in activities like this, but through their efforts ensure that the rich cultural traditions of Peru remain vibrant.

School I.E. No. 10171 Mariscal Ramòn Castilla from Olmos featured traditional agricultural crops such as Limòn, mangos and maracuya, which is the fruit from the maracuya tree and is used to make juice and jelly. Algarrobina is a syrup made from the fruit of the algarrobo tree. The syrup is very thick and dark brown in color. To me it has a nutty, smoky taste to it. It is not sweet. The advisor to these students is Professor Rolando Chambergo. He invited us to visit the school and we intend at accept his invitation in the near future.

I.E.P.S.M No. 10157 Inca Garcilaso de la Vega is a school from Morrope. The students displayed traditional handicrafts including chicha de jora, which is an ancient beverage made from shucked yellow corn after it has germinated and sprouted roots. It is then boiled in water and allowed to ferment for seven days. I purchased one of the small gourds displayed on the table which is called a ‘poto’ and used it to sample the beverage. The flavor is hard to describe, other than to say it tastes like corn.

I didn’t learn anything about this school but could not resist posting the photo of these kids. The traditional products on display are hand painted gourds and ornamental leather products. Identity week continues Monday with a photo exposition of the Lambayeque Region in the regional government auditorium. We’ll be there. We wish you could be there to enjoy it with us. Viva Peru!

Tom & Maribel

Thursday, November 19, 2009

“Ya gotta have snow for Christmaaas!”

This will be my third Christmas in Chiclayo. Christmas is on my mind because just like in the States the stores are decorating and shelves are being stocked with Christmas items. A city crew is erecting the huge metal Christmas tree in the principal park. We watched them work for awhile yesterday afternoon. They were wearing t-shirts and jeans, as were we. I like that. I don’t “gotta have snow for Christmaaas”, nor do I gotta wear a ski parka or snow boots or clean my fogged glasses or wipe my runny nose or be frozen to the bone to enjoy the Christmas decorations in the park at night. Nor do I gotta have my car spin out on black ice or shovel out the driveway and mail box after the snowplows have gone through…..again.

I don’t have to go up on a garage roof to remove large blocks of frozen snow because the weight is causing the roof to make creaking noises. I don’t have to use candles for illumination or watch the temperature drop in my house because the furnace stopped running after a wet snow has pulled down power lines. If I never again go “walking in a winter wonderland” that’s fine with me.

Wisconsin’s annual deer hunting season begins Saturday. It’s almost unbelievable to me that there was a time I actually enjoyed getting out of bed at 4:30am; gulping down a quick breakfast and piling into the car with five other guys to drive into the woods where there was an oak ridge ¼ mile long with swamp on three sides. We’d stumble along the ridge in the dark; each of us stopping at his favorite spot. Then we’d sit there in the pre-dawn darkness freezing our butts off waiting for that first little bit of light when each of us was positive the biggest buck in the forest would be standing in front of him. On an average day we’d be lucky to see a squirrel.

In those days we all wore plaid wool hunting clothing. It wasn’t until some years later that “blaze” was mandated. I remember feeling foolish buying let alone putting on that clown costume. Now during deer season every patch of woods in Wisconsin looks like it’s alive with radioactive popsicles. I enjoy remembering those times, but nothing could entice me to do that again. I wonder if the other guys feel the same. Two of them are dead and I lost touch with the others. It’s funny how that happens. I wonder what a person would think or feel or do differently if we knew we were doing some activity or saying goodbye to somebody for the last time.

There’s a guy named Victor here in Chiclayo who offered to take me wild burro hunting. He says all we do is drive into the desert and wait for the burros to show up. Maribel says he’s kidding me, but I’ll tell you what; the thought of hunting again without blaze orange clothing, knee deep snow and freezing temperatures is very appealing. If 40 years ago while playing poker at night in the deer camp one of the guys would have said someday I’d be hunting wild burros in a Peruvian desert, everyone would have laughed at the prospect of something so absurd. What a strange world.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Visiting Cabo Blanco

Of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve done since arriving in Peru, an afternoon visit to the town of Cabo Blanco stands out most in my mind. It’s a tiny, one-road town sandwiched on a thin strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and towering bluffs. To reach the town you need to get off the bus (Eppo) at El Alto - another small town located on the Pan American highway. At the bus station ask anyone for directions to the transportation area to Cabo Blanco. You’ll be directed to a small non-descript park where several (if you’re lucky) small pickup trucks are parked. Maribel, Brian and I were fortunate enough to get a ride in the cab section of a newer truck. It was a different story on the return trip. It’s only a short distance from El Alto to Cabo Blanco but the trip seems to take forever because the route involves slowly ascending a mountain and then slowly descending into the town, and all the while the truck is swaying from side to side.

The Cabo Blanco Fishing Club is probably the most noteworthy feature of the town, though it’s actually isolated about two miles to the south. In its heyday many celebrities frequented the club/lodge primarily to fish for giant Marlins that were located near to shore in those days. Today the club is deserted and in poor repair. The attraction for me was that the writer Ernest Hemingway stayed there in the 1950s.

Hemingway always stayed in room no. 5 which is the room lower left in this photo. The club has a colorful history, but because so much information exists about it on the internet I won’t go into it here, other than to say for me it was a personal thrill to stand in the same room where Hemingway stood.

Many off the path beach villages look desolate and decrepit. Entering Cabo Blanco conveys a whole different perception. You can see at a glance that both public and private property is well maintained. The park on the left in this photo is colorful and has a vibrancy about it that almost says “welcome!”

The white sand beach and blue/green ocean is vastly different from the volcanic gray sand and brown water of beaches to the south. What I don’t understand is why Mancora…a tourist beach town to the north of Cabo Blanco doesn’t also have the white sand and blue water.

Being a very small town, there is really only one restaurant, naturally called the Cabo Blanco Restaurant. It’s located on the beach for a great view while eating, and has a wide selection on the menu. Prices are on the high side, but it’s one of those situations where you pretty much expect that and really don’t care. The food was good and the staff eager to talk with us about the town.

If you’d care to stay overnight to my knowledge there is only one option…the Hostal El Merlin. It’s the two story building on the right. We didn’t go inside but from the appearance of the exterior I wouldn’t be afraid to make a reservation there myself. In fact we have plans to do just that during Brian’s upcoming school vacation. I could see myself sitting under one of those tiki roofs on the beach watching the sun set.

Cabo Blanco has the look of a wannabe tourist town, but right now its economic base is fishing. It has the most modern fish processing facility I’ve seen in Peru including a fleet of modern refrigerated trucks, something I’ve never seen in the north.

Which brings us to our return trip to El Alto. Most of the fishermen and people working at the fish facility don’t live in Cabo Blanco, so at day’s end there is a line of people waiting for a place on one of the trucks. There is an informal system where you are handed a piece of paper with a hand written number on it, which indicates your position in the queue. My number was 23, with Maribel and Brian being 24 and 25. That should have meant a wait for at least the third truck, but for whatever reason the woman handing out the slips told us to get on the next truck. No cab this time. We were packed into the back with many others. It was one of those oh so common situations where we were seated half on the seat and half on someone else.

The guy on the left in this photo apparently thought this would be a new and frightening experience for the old gringo, because he started giving me good natured “superior” grins. He was already seated half way out of the truck when he decided to get up and stand on the tail gate, holding on to the bar frame, again giving me a macho grin. Unknown to this guy is the fact that, in another life, I spent hours standing on the tailgate of moving trucks, courtesy of the U.S. Army. So I got up and stood next to him. Now his expression was more quizzical than superior. Then he played his last card. He held on with one hand and placed a call on his cell phone. I don’t have a cell phone. It only took about 5 minutes after returning to El Alto for me to be able to straighten out my fingers and the feeling returned to my hands.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Earning a living in Peru

One of the most frequently asked questions by people thinking of relocating to Peru has to do with the availability of business or employment opportunities. I can’t tell you how happy I am that the days of having to concern myself with earning a living are behind me. Retirement is the best thing that ever happened to me. Well, make that second best. Meeting and marrying my wife is first. Anyway, I don’t know what advice to offer to those looking to make a buck in Peru. I do know that many people try teaching English, either privately or affiliated with a school. Others attempt to open restaurants though the success rate is not so good. There is a new restaurant that is either owned or being constructed by a gringo opening near our apartment. We saw him recently. I offered my standard…”How ya doin?” greeting but he didn’t respond which pretty much rules out American, Canadian and British nationalities, unless he was just having a bad day.

What I can talk about is how Chiclayanos make a living. Just about every occupation you can name exists in Chiclayo. From politicians to plumbers to prostitutes, they’re all here. What’s different is the scale. As opposed to huge and lavish, small and modest is the rule. If you have a white collar job – bank or government employee as this woman is, lawyer or teacher, your work area will be small and humble. Nor will you be supported by the latest in technology. Instead your desk will be covered with paper, pencils, and rubber stamps. Lots of rubber stamps. But there really aren’t that many white collar jobs in Chiclayo. Mostly you’ll be selling or transporting something. The sales jobs range from fast food to all sorts of manufactured products including jewelry, clothing, furniture and appliances, cars, etc, just as you’d see in the States. If you’re in transport you’ll probably be moving people but could also be delivering products or moving material to construction sites.

If you’re a self employed laborer or laboring for someone else, the same conditions apply. There are no mega-manufacturers with robotic technology in Chiclayo. Instead you’ll be working in a two or three man shop, doing your carpentry, auto repair, metal fabrication (as in this photo) or whatever the old fashioned way… hand. Hand-held electric drills, grinders and saws are about as good as it gets.

Building construction is also done on a small scale. Concrete is usually poured via the bucket brigade, even on three and four story buildings. Bricks are hauled up by hand, and tree limbs are used for leveling and as temporary supports. Given the methods I am surprised at the quality of the completed buildings. This building dates back to colonial times and is being renovated.

Obviously there are more standard type jobs I haven’t mentioned but you’ve probably got the picture by now. Let’s look at some occupations you may not be familiar with. Any and everything, legal or illegal can be bought pretty much openly on the streets. Selling pirate DVDs as in this photo (5 movies on a disc for $1.50 - quality sucks) is a popular occupation, though not without risk. Frequent police raids sometimes result in the confiscation of the merchandise. There is a raid warning system and in under 5 seconds these people and their display racks can be inside the Bata shoe store behind them.

You can be a “vigilante” – which corresponds to a private security guard who sits on a chair in a strategic area of a neighborhood and watches houses for 12 hours. Each home owner pays about $10 monthly for this service. Many young men earn a living by twirling flaming batons or doing gymnastic feats at major intersections for stopped traffic. Informal parking valets will offer to stop traffic so you can back out of your parking spot. Roving shoe shine men and photographers are numerous at high traffic areas. There are also roving musicians, usually three or four who walk slowly through neighborhoods playing their instruments. Custom has it that, should they see you watching them play through a window or from a balcony, you owe them money. They can be very persistent about banging on your door until you show up with a coin or two.

Selling candy, bread, brooms, juices and everything else imaginable is common on street corners. And if business isn’t so good you can quickly move to another location or, as this man is doing use the time to catch up on your sleep.

Curbside restaurants are very popular, especially with taxi drivers. The food is basic, filling and cheap. You can eat fast and be on your way in minutes for less than one dollar. Ceviche is a big favorite at these stops. If you’re only going to be in Peru for a few days I’d recommend not eating at a curbside restaurant, or drinking juices sold from roving carts. Dealing with Montezuma’s Revenge is not a fun way to spend your vacation.

People don’t generally earn a lot of money in Peru, but they don’t need a lot of money. It’s amazing how little it takes to put food on the table for a large family. Rice, eggs, vegetables, bread and chicken are cheap. Rice is part of nearly every meal. Many families literally don’t know where tomorrow’s rice will come from but they know that somehow they’ll get it. Chiclayanos; men, women and children are not afraid to work.


Monday, November 9, 2009

From Tchaikovsky to Taxes

Saturday we attended a ballet staged at the municipal auditorium of district Jose Leonardo Ortiz by Ballet Municipal of Lima, a professional troupe from Lima. The performance was scheduled to begin at 4:30pm; actually began at 5:30, and finished at 7:00. The delay between scheduled and actual time is an example of that quaint little custom known as “La Hora Peruana”, or hour Peruvian. Nothing starts on time. To Peruvians it’s something to chuckle about. To non-Peruvians it’s a royal pain in the ass.

There was no admission charge as the performance was a gift from the mayor of Lima to the people of Chiclayo. I’m told the performers are professionals. What I know about ballet wouldn’t cover a postage stamp but I do recognize precision physical movement when I see it. This wasn’t it. The lifts and leaps were mechanical and measured….the chorography basic and safe. Still, it was an entertaining and enjoyable afternoon. The audience rewarded the performers with a standing ovation.

Sunday afternoon found us in Picsi on the first day of a week-long celebration of the town’s 186th anniversary. The town’s people were still in the process of setting up so there wasn’t much to see or do other than take a few photos. The architecture of the church adjacent to the principal park is different from anything I’ve seen before.

One event that was in progress was a 10k run. We were at the finish line to get this photo of the winner. I don’t know what his time was, but he came in a full 4 minutes ahead of the second place runner.

We managed to entice Miss Picsi to pose for us next to the raffle prizes. The raffle is an interesting concept. Those who pay their taxes punctually qualify for a chance at winning a prize. Those who don’t pay on time are out of the drawing.

As part of the celebration there will be boxing matches tomorrow night beginning at 9:30pm, with the big bash – music and dancing taking place Thursday night. I don’t think we’ll be going back for either.

Picsi is not a town we would recommend as a must-see. In fact I wouldn’t even include it on a worth a stop list unless there were some special event taking place. Not because it’s unattractive – it’s not, but because it doesn’t have anything to differentiate it from a thousand other small towns.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

There is always something happening in Chiclayo

Occasionally some friend in the States will ask if I’m “….retired and going nuts over there with nothing to do.” Even though I’ve heard the question several times, it still leaves me speechless for a moment or two. How do I explain that there aren’t enough hours in the day to see all the organized activities and natural attractions the Lambayeque region alone has to offer, or that it is a rare week when we are not invited to two or three baptisms, birthdays or other social events? We are literally at a point where we have to pass on things we’d like to do but have no time for. We haven’t been mountain climbing or fishing for over one month due to lack of time. For example, yesterday there was an artisan’s exposition in downtown Chiclayo that began at 10:00am and finished at 7:00pm. This afternoon there is a ballet performance on Chiclayo’s north side. Tomorrow the nearby town of Picci has an all-day art fair and pageant. Monday night we’ll be at a birthday party. Anyone who is bored in Chiclayo is bored by choice. Let’s talk a bit about yesterday’s event.

Pasarela Moche 2009, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism is an artisan exposition of clothing, clothing accessories and jewelry produced in the various surrounding towns. The exposition was held at the Gran Hotel in Chiclayo. We have four or five 1st class hotels in Chiclayo, with the Gran Hotel being at the top of the list. Many business travelers stay here. It offers most of the amenities you’d expect and in addition has a beautiful botanical park directly across the street. It is within easy walking distance of the city’s center and principal park. The cost of a double will set you back about $120 per night, which includes an extensive buffet breakfast and several other niceties.

The exhibitions included demonstrations in the making of various items. There were samples of the finished products offered for sale. I was fascinated by the hat making process shown in this photo. The raw material is paja macora. I have no idea what that is, but I do know it is grown as a cultivated crop in Peru and elsewhere. Three generations of this woman’s family have earned their living selling these hats and other items. She said she works approximately seven hours each day for five weeks to complete one hat. They are extremely lightweight and appear to be air tight. At the exposition the cost of a hat is $70. It may be less in Etèn; the town where she lives.

A fashion show marked the finish of the exposition with models displaying clothing, purses and jewelry. I was impressed with the professionalism of the total set up including lights and music, and the poise displayed by the models on the catwalk. We’d like to end this post by presenting to you these photos of the products and women of Chiclayo.

Tom & Maribel



Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behavioral Differences

So far we’ve talked a lot about the physical sights you will see in the north. What we haven’t talked about to any degree is culture and customs….behavior that may be different from what you’re accustomed to. So what is it that you are likely see getting off the bus or plane?

By far the most frequently mentioned difference by expatriates and visitors is the bumping and jostling. Gringos describe it as rudeness. There is no question that the concept of personal space does not exist in larger cities like Chiclayo, but it’s a situation that’s created because of large numbers of people living here and the design of the sidewalks, streets and buildings dating back to colonial times which forces competition for every inch of space, which is why some people in this photo are walking in the street. Bumping or being bumped into while walking, shopping, banking or whatever is normal. Unfortunately, that behavior carries over even in uncrowded situations when it’s not called for. It is not unusual to be nudged out of the way when talking with a store clerk or looking at items on a shelf, even when no one else is in the shop. Before living in the States Maribel accepted this behavior as normal. Now it bothers her. It doesn’t exactly please me but I’m getting used to it, even though I still grit my teeth and mutter a lot.

Running a close second is the realization that pedestrians do not have the right of way. The taxis, motos, busses and motorcycles will not deliberately try to hit you, but they will also not go out of their way to avoid you. You may think a walk light gives you preference to cross the street, and it does for stopped traffic, but not for those turning onto the street you’re crossing. They may blow their horn to warn you but that is all the courtesy you’ll get from them. Notice the people running out of the way in the photo. Even being on a sidewalk does not guarantee your safety if there is a parking lot or gas station between you and them. It is up to you to get out of the way….and quickly. After awhile you discover there is a rhythm to the chaos and learn to negotiate safely if not comfortably in traffic.

Along the same line, you are going to be surprised at the aggressiveness of the taxi drivers when you arrive at the airport or bus station. There will be many of them all shouting for your attention – some even attempting to take your luggage from you to force you to follow them to their taxi. I won’t even bother to describe the ride from the airport to your hotel, especially if it’s during rush hour. You need to experience it to believe it. If necessary close your eyes and keep repeating the phrase…”Tom said I won’t be killed.”

If you’re able to take that taxi ride with your eyes open you will probably notice the women, especially if you’re a man, just as the man in this photo is doing. In a country of beautiful women, Chiclayo is the mother lode. And they have a habit of dressing sensually – short skirts or skin tight jeans, spike heels and lots of cleavage showing. I’m told this is not something that’s done consciously and I believe it, though I see plenty of women who are undeniably in the “if you’ve got it put it on display” mode.

You wouldn’t believe how hard we (yes….me and Maribel) worked trying to get a photo to show to you. What we wanted was a candid photo of two or three beauties walking side by side downtown. Problem is either they saw us or something else happened to spoil the shot. But fear not guys; we will keep trying. In the meantime we’ll have to make do with this photo. By the way, if you happen to wolf whistle at these women – something that’s not unusual here, odds are they’ll laugh to each other; give each other a high five and continue on their way. Chiclayo women are proud of their femininity.

Another difference you will see is the widespread open show of affection. It is common for family member or friends to walk hand in hand or with their arms around each other. Maribel claims to be able to tell the difference but I’m still not sure when I’m seeing a family situation or a romantic thing. I have no doubt what’s going on with the passionate kissing that takes place any and everywhere, mostly between younger people. I have to admit that both the kissing and walking with arms draped around each other, whether family members or not makes me uncomfortable. Maribel and Brian tell me I feel that way because I am a “typically cold American.” Hmmmm.

Probably the only other “surface” difference you will notice early on is the one I am most reluctant to write about. Except in the downtown area urinating in public is common throughout Chiclayo. It is always men, and usually but not always moto or taxi drivers. Any vacant lot or dark area day or night is fair game. It is a custom that never fails to embarrass me when showing the city to visitors.

There are many other behavioral differences but they are less apparent and require a deeper familiarity with the people to understand and appreciate. We’ll talk more about Peruvian culture some other time.

Tom & Maribel

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Village of Cura Mori

This is an apartment building in Barranco…a wealthy suburb of Lima. It sits high atop a bluff overlooking a beautifully maintained park with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. The rent for one of these units starts at $1,500 per month.

This is a typical home in Cura Mori. You could probably buy it for $1,500 including land and livestock. Cora Mori is a small desert community located twenty miles south of Piura. Maribel’s uncle Manuel and aunt Laura live here. I like to visit because the contrast between Cura Mori and Chiclayo is vast. The only sounds you’ll hear are from the livestock and occasionally children’s voices. There is also what the villagers refer to as a radio station that consists of a microphone in someone’s house, and loudspeakers mounted on poles placed throughout the community. It is used for announcements and sometimes but not often to play music.

The village has water and electricity but lacks paved roads, which is okay because the primary transportation is either feet or donkey cart. There are no combis, motos or taxis. The people raise turkeys, ducks, pigs, cows and goats mostly for their own subsistence. Their cash crops are corn and sugar cane grown on irrigated farms located several miles from the village. It’s the men’s job to tend the fields each day and bring the harvested crops to the village where the women take over the work of processing the harvest.

This photo illustrates what appears to be the strict division of labor. Everywhere I looked women were doing women’s work and men did men’s work. Women were cooking while men were cutting fire wood. Women were tending the house, children and livestock while the men were…….observing. It reminds me of what I imagine to be the frontier days of the west in the States. Right about now you’re probably thinking what I’m describing is the well known macho Latin society. You’d be wrong. Based on my experience and observations women are the guiding force, but that’s a topic we’ll discuss at some other time.

Manuel and Laura have lived on this site for many years. They’ve raised a large family in this home. Some have remained to work the farm while others have heard the call of bigger cities. Many of the homes in the village are constructed of cane stalks, mud and perhaps plaster. The roofs are mostly thatch. Ten years ago Manuel and Laura constructed a new home of brick and plaster. It looks impressive from the inside, with modern appliances including two televisions and comfortable furniture, but it’s used mostly just for sleeping

The old structure still stands alongside the new, and it is here where the family prefers to spend their time. The cooking is done on an ancient hearth where Maribel’s grandmother prepared meals many years ago, just as cousin Noelia and Aunt Laura are doing. Probably many of the cooking utensils date back to that time. Meals are eaten here as well. The laundry is washed here by hand and hung to dry in the hot desert sun.

Cura Mori has its principal park, which to me was impressive given the obviously limited resources of the community. The school is basic but well maintained. The village and its people have a good feel to it. It’s a place where I like to think about different lifestyles. Here life seems simple and in-your-face real. Your existence and whether you eat tomorrow depends on your fortitude and what you do today. It’s a demanding yet rewarding life. At least that’s what Manuel and Laura say.