Category Archives: November 2021

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“History teaches us that man learns nothing from history.”
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The Mexican Revolution began on November 20th, 1910, with a call to arms to overthrow the government of Porfirio Díaz, which favored the wealthy. Here we are, over a hundred years later and the world is still full of similar stories of inequity. I don’t listen to the news too often – maybe a few times a week – and it is always dire. Between elections, Afghanistan, COVID updates, and natural disasters, it seems as if we are slowly self-destructing. But the news that made me the saddest came at the end of September when the ivory-billed woodpecker was declared officially extinct, along with 22 other species. It was an add-on piece of news, the sort BTW update thrown out by reporters – certainly not breaking news like a bombing or hurricane. Where do our concerns as a collective lie when the extinction of 22 species is not breaking news?

Since 1500, over 190 species of birds have become extinct and the ivory-billed woodpecker hadn’t been spotted since 1944. The biggest causes of extinction are loss of habitat through agriculture and housing for humans – in the U.S. alone, 4.8 million acres were converted for agricultural purposes between 2007 and 2018; climate change, which is causing temperature fluctuations and forcing birds to move; and collision with other structures such as powerlines (25 million bird deaths each year), wind turbines (410 000 bird deaths each year), communication towers (7 million bird deaths each year). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 72 million birds die each year from pesticide poisoning.

The list of lost birds is long and tragic. Do you remember the excitement of finding a feather when you were a child? I can feel the tactile memory of my fingers brushing against the grain. Will future generations only know birds from their likeness produced on a digital screen?

Even if you don’t care much about nature, ask yourself – If the environment we are living in is inhospitable to birds, how long before it is inhospitable to us?

This is the true revolution of our time.

See you next month,

Jane

National Identity and the Mexican Revolution

By Randy Jackson

One hundred years separated Mexico’s War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution. The War of Independence (1810 – 1821) may have severed Spanish European rule from New Spain, but it left this new country of Mexico to sort through the competing power structures left behind. These were the Catholic Church; the privileged economic structure of the encomiendas (estates owned by the descendants of the conquistadores); and the indigenous and mixed-race underclass majority that had been cemented in poverty since the time of the conquest. These grappling power structures, along with foreign invasions, beset Mexico with a century of wars, coup d’etats, uprisings, and assassinations.

These blood-soaked events of the 19th century led to the 20th-century Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920), which hammered out a constitution and a process of governance in 1917. But only a sense of national identity could hold these new structures in place. For this we turn to the mightier pen, to the artists, the poets and philosophers. Around the time of the Mexican Revolution, there was a diverse group of artists, professors and students called Ateneo de la Juventud Mexicana (Mexican academic youth group). This group stood for (among other reforms) the value of a Mexican identity against the “Ideals” of President Porfirio Díaz, who saw Europe and America as ideals for a future Mexico.

José Vasconcelos Calderón, a philosopher and writer (later politician) was a member of this group. One influence on Vasconcelos was the Uruguayan essayist José Enrique Rodó. Rodó argued against what he called “Nordomanía,” the influence of Yankee materialism and the cultural megaphone of the United States. Rodó saw this influence as a threat that would drown out the regional identities of Latin America. For a century, Latin American philosophers were aware of the decline of the Catholic Spanish empire and the ascendency of the Anglo-Saxon and Protestant paradigm. Finding a foothold of identity amid this cultural erosion was something that Vasconcelos tried to establish for Mexico.

Beyond the support for unique Mexican and Latin American identities, Vasconcelos was philosophically opposed to Social Darwinism, which proposed the superiority of certain races. This concept was gaining ground in parts of the western world around the time of the Mexican Revolution. In 1925, in response to these ideas and influences, Vasconcelos wrote “La raza cósmica” (“The Cosmic Race”) an essay that became highly influential in Mexican political and sociocultural policies.

In “La raza cósmica,” Vasconcelos looks back to the ancient civilizations of the Americas and the mixing of people following the Spanish conquest, to produce el mestizaje (the mixed race). Vasconcelos writes, “Spanish colonization created mixed races [whereas] the English kept on mixing only with the whites and annihilated the natives.” Vasconcelos proposed that el mestizaje would be a “fifth race” that would hold the best aspects of their various forefathers, and in time would become the universal humanity. This was a message of hope for the people of Mexico at a time when national identity was beginning to be articulated.

Vasconcelos and his work are not without controversy. Modern scholars point out his own period’s racism, which Vasconcelos himself held and displayed in his work. Yet his influence lives on. Under President Álvaro Obregón (1920-24), Vasconcelos was made the head of the Secretariat of Public Education. Along with an expanded budget for education under the Obregón administration, Vasconcelos expanded the public education system, initiating a large number of texts for use in schools.

Vasconcelos’ work on modern Mexican identity influenced many artists and philosophers. His work is said to have direct influence on Octavio Paz’s most famous work, El laberinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude). Under his secretariat, Vasconcelos commissioned artists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, to paint the insides of Mexico’s most important public buildings. This gave rise to the Mexican muralist movement.

The Mexican Revolution was an unfortunate protracted civil war with tremendous loss of life. It does, however, mark a turning point in Mexican history and the birth of a unique national identity. Individuals like Vasconcelos contributed to defining the fascinating and tumultuous history of Mexico and initiating the formation of a Mexican national identity.

Mexico’s Northern Border c. 1890:Saints, Unrest, and Rebellions

By Julie Etra

When you think about the Mexican Revolution, the larger-than-life characters typically come to mind: Emiliano Zapata in the south, Francisco (Pancho) Villa in the north. Before the Revolution, there was plenty of unrest and dissatisfaction with the centralized Mexican government led by José de la Cruz Díaz Mori. Near the border with the United States, pro-revolutionary, anti-Porfirio exiles living in El Paso and vicinity helped foment revolution through a variety of publications, also intended to gain support from the US Government. One of these Mexican expatriates was the inventive engineer and newspaper editor, Lauro Aguirre. (You can learn more about Aguirre in The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a wonderful book by Luis Alberto Urrea.)

The Rebellion of Tomóchic

After reading The Hummingbird’s Daughter, I became interested in the Rebellion of Tomóchic (1891-92) and the border unrest. This area, located in the state of Chihuahua, includes the Sierra Madre Occidental and the famous Copper Canyon (Barrancas de Cobre), home to the Tarahumara, or Rarámuri. It has always been geographically isolated, and essentially autonomous even after the Spanish conquest. Before the rebellion, the Tomochitecos resisted exploitation by the Spanish-descended hacienda owners (land barons) and mining companies. Constant unrest included land and property ownership conflicts as well as on-going threats by the Apache tribes from the north. Local skirmishes also resulted in violent conflicts with Mexican federal forces.

Around 1890, the community of Tomóchic became under increased scrutiny due to the rising fame of Teresita Urrea, the daughter of the Hummingbird (also the author’s great aunt), and the town’s adoption of her as their patron saint. Although she never set foot in the town, she was perceived as a Saint due to her purported healing abilities and posed an existential threat to the Porfirio regime solely due to her following, despite her claims to be apolitical.

The Catholic Church never had a strong presence in this remote region due to the lack of permanent priesthoods in isolated areas. This led to a vacuum of leadership and an atmosphere ripe for the cultivation of ‘saints’ to whom the locals attributed miracles due to their presumed direct communication with God and associated power. The only way for the Church to combat the dissemination of these alternatives to Catholicism was through the rare presence and ranting pontifications of priests in the Sierra Tarahumara. This situation became complicated since religious dissent was tied to notions of social justice and the “saints” provided guidance and comfort to the Tomochitecos suffering from exploitation and precarious socioeconomic conditions.

Since the early 1800s, the Porfiriato and the Church had both been trying to strengthen and centralize their control of remote regions. With the arrival of the railroad on the Chihuahuan border with the U.S., American exploitation of the area’s natural resources, particularly timber, took off. On December 1, 1891, Tomóchic staged an organized rebellion and declared its autonomy.

Although viewed by some historians as a precursor to the Revolution, other historians viewed the rebellion as a local affair, mestizos rebelling against their lighter-skinned, exploitative oppressors and the Church.

The story is told that the first time federal troops arrived in Tomóchic, they had talked themselves into a fright at the thought of facing the savage rebels. They were confused when they were met by a silent line of thirty women, all dressed in black, advancing slowly closer. The women dropped their black shawls, revealing themselves to be men, whipped out their Winchesters, and shot down the front line of troops. Nonetheless, after a year of confrontations with Porfirio’s troops, the rebellion ended with the annihilation of the entire town.

The Role of the Hummingbird’s Daughter

As noted above, the Tomochitecos were followers of Teresita Urrea, the Saint of Cabora. Before the uprising she had participated in other so-called insurgent movements, as defined by the federal government, that addressed social justice, particularly for the poor. She was demonized by an itinerant Catholic priest, offending the locals, and thereby planting the seeds of confrontation with the church. (Before the Mexican Revolution [1910-20] the church and the government were one state, intertwined and codependent.)

The true influence of la Santa de Cabora in the uprising has never been clear, as the entire town was destroyed during the conflict, along with most witnesses. Teresita Urrea and her father, perceived as a threat to the federal government, were exiled (or fled) to the United States. The Porfirio regime believed that if they had been executed in Mexico, it would have led to intolerable and counterproductive martyrdom. The Mexican Revolution had yet to be born, but this conflict undoubtedly fueled the flames of discontent.

If you are interested in reading more about the Rebellion of Tomóchic, check out these sources:

Frías, Heriberto. The Battle of Tomóchic: Memoirs of a Second Lieutenant, translated by Barbara Jamison. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. This is a historical novel by Frías, based on his experiences in the Rebellion of Tomóchic. The author sharply criticizes the actions of the federal government in crushing the Rebellion.
Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Hummingbird’s Daughter. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2005. Queen of America. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
Vanderwood, Paul J. The Power of God against the Guns of Government: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. This is a broader (academic) view of the Mexican Revolution and how the Rebellion is a key precursor to it.

If you are interested in Mexican music, the corrido, or heroic ballad, achieved its high point during the Mexican Revolution; “El Corrido de Tomóchic” is considered the first revolutionary corrido.

Lamadrid, Enrique R. “El Corrido de Tomóchic: Honor, Grace, Gender, and Power in the First Ballad of the Mexican Revolution.” Journal of the Southwest, 41:4 (Winter 1999): 441-60.

Holiday / Festival Dates in Oaxaca

By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

While November is the month when we celebrate the Mexican Revolution, virtually all towns and villages throughout the state of Oaxaca have their own festival weeks honoring one saint or another. Such an enumeration would be close to impossible to catalogue in a brief article, if not in a book. However, noting bank and government office closures and commemorative dates typically celebrated with festivities, is manageable.

So here goes, with assistance from the listings in Barbara Hopkins’ book, Oaxaca: Crafts and Sightseeing (3rd edition is 1999, currently out of print).

January 1 – New Year’s Day: National holiday with banks and government offices closed, as well as some retail outlets including restaurants.

January 6 – Epiphany, Day of the Three Kings (Día de los Reyes Magos): Bakeries sell roscas de reyes, to be eaten that evening usually at an extended family gathering. There is gift giving to children. The rosca is typically a large wreath-shaped egg bread with one or more tiny white plastic dolls inside representing the baby Jesus (Niño Diós). Whoever finds the doll(s) must prepare and serve tamales to other members of the same group, at a party on the night of Candlemas – see next item.

February 2 – Candelmas (Candelaria): More recently, when several plastic babies are found by separate people, each might contribute to the meal in different ways. Leading up to and including this date, residents purchase their larger Niño Diós dolls, and outfits for them, last year’s clothing often interchanged with those of relatives and friends. They take their finely dressed dolls to church to be blessed in memory of the presentation of Jesus to the Temple. This is the end of the Mexican Christmas season.

February 5 – Constitution Day: This date commemorates the publication of Mexico’s Constitution in 1917, during the Revolution. A national holiday, now celebrated on the first Monday in February; banks and government offices closed.

Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – Martes de Carnaval: Occurring on March 1, 2022, “Fat Tuesday” represents the last day of freedom before Lent. In cities, but more impressively in towns and villages, there are parades with live music, locals decked out in costumes representative of devils and more.

Fridays during Lent – Paseo de los Viernes de Cuaresma: They vary from locale to locale, but tradition in the state capital dictates sale of flowers at Llano park, for the purchaser to present to girlfriends / lovers.

Fourth Friday of Lent (three weeks before Good Friday) – Day of the Good Samaritan: Celebrated throughout Oaxaca’s central valleys, usually from noon to 2 pm. Churches, businesses, schools, parks and street associations gift fresh sweet juices and sometimes other food stuffs to all passersby.

Palm Sunday until Easter – Holy Week (Semana Santa): Holy week begins on Palm Sunday. Sale of intricately woven palms, visits to seven capital churches, with processions around village/town churches as well. Different locales have different mass traditions for Saturday and Sunday, culminating with the Resurrection. Churches solemnly chime, with the march of silence. Banks and government offices are closed Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

March 21 – Birthday of Benito Juárez: Juárez, the 26th president of Mexico and the first of indigenous origin, held office from 1858 until his death in 1872. A national holiday with banks and government offices closed.

May 1 – Labor Day (Día del Trabajo): Parades, with banks and government offices closed.

May 3 – Day of the Holy Cross, Mason’s Day (Día del Albañil): Parties for construction workers, crosses affixed on construction sites, typically a complimentary meal for all workers. Often dances in the streets with revelry.

May 5 – Cinco de Mayo): A national holiday commemorating Mexico’s 1862 victory in Puebla over invading French troops; banks and government offices closed.

May 10 and thereafter – Vela Istmeña (Vigil/Festival for people from the Isthmus): In Mexico City and elsewhere, Mexicans who originate from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec gather for public/cultural events, with masses and processions showcasing traditional regional dress.

Last two Mondays of July – Lunes del Cerro (Mondays of the Hill): Entire month of July is festive, in particular those Mondays (date is adjusted if a Monday falls on July 18, the date of death for Benito Juárez); celebrated throughout Oaxaca but especially in the capital – Oaxaca de Juárez. The Guelaguetza is performed throughout the weekend leading up to the Mondays; the Guelaguetza promotes Oaxaca’s rich cultural traditions by showcasing regional song, dress, dance and items locally produced for sale and consumption. Spectacular!

August 15 – Day of the Taxi Driver: Celebrated mainly in the state capital. Taxis and colectivos are adorned with flowers and parade through the streets and in the course of daily work taking fares.

August 31 – Pet Day, Bendición de los Animales (Blessing of the Animals): Performed at the Merced church in the capital and also elsewhere. Residents bring their pets and parade them through the streets all dressed up.

September 16 – Dia de la Independencia (Independence Day): Commemorates indepenence from Spain, proclaimed in 1810. The night before (September 15) at 11 pm, people celebrate El Grito (The Cry), during which the nation’s president and all governors and mayors, with support from police and army, shout aloud re independence, typically with fireworks near government palaces. Spectacular! Banks and government offices are closed on September 16.

October 12 – Día de la Raza (Day of the Race): In Hispanic countries, Columbus Day has become Day of the Race, a celebration of the heritage and culture of peoples who were eliminated or exploited by the Spanish conquest – similar to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which has been substituted for Columbus Day in places in the United States. Banks and government offices are closed.

October 31, November 1. November 2 – Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead): Also celebrated on subsequent dates depending on the locale, especially November 1 (All Saints’ Day) and November 2 (All Souls’ Day). The celebrations combine pre-Hispanic roots with Christianity, and include attending rituals in cemeteries day and night, decorating gravesites and home altars, honoring the departed, and parades through the streets in cities, towns and villages throughout Mexico (comparsas). Oaxaca city and environs, along with Pátzcuaro, are recognized worldwide as the best places to experience Day of the Dead. Again egg bread is traditional, as is construction of elaborate colored sand carpets (tapetes). Spectacular! Banks and government offices are closed on the last two dates.

November 20 – Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution: On this date in 1910, Francisco Madero issued a call to arms to unseat the dictator Porfirio Díaz. A national holiday with parades, sporting events and banks and government offices closed.

December 8, 12, 18 – respectively, celebrations of the Virgins of Juquila, Guadalupe, and Soledad: The celebration for the Virgin of Juquila is regional; for Guadalupe, it is national, with banks and government offices closed; and for Soledad, it is regional, although she is the patron saint of Oaxaca state). There are pilgrimages to Juquila, Mexico City, and Oaxaca City throughout the year, but especially with arrivals on the specific dates, with prayers for miracles, parades, and other festivities.

December 13 – Another Vela Istmeña (see May 10).

December 16 – Start of the Christmas season: Nightly processions (posadas) through the 24th, passing through city, town and village streets, representative of Mary and Joseph seeking a bed for the birth of Jesus. Building of crèches (nacimientos).

December 23 – Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes): In Oaxaca City, the zócalo is adorned with stalls where state residents construct scenes of carved radishes of all sizes, representing market activity, crèches, regional dress and dance, heads of famous Oaxacans, and much more, competing for cash prizes. There are smaller competitions with scenes made of dried flowers and of corn husks and stalks. A uniquely state capital occurrence, with other daytime and evening activities. Noche de Rábanos is over a century old. Spectacular!

December 24 – Calendas de Noche Buena (Processions of Christmas Eve): The final night of posadas, with floats representing neighborhood churches from Oaxaca City neighborhoods, local marching bands, and participants in elaborate dress, all heading to and circling the zócalo. Zócalo attendance spectacular!

December 25 – Christmas Day (Navidad): Mostly celebrated at home with family. A national holiday with banks and government offices closed.

December 31 –Noche de la Cruz del Pedimento (Night of Petition) also Nochevieja (Old Night), Año Nuevo (New Year): Banks closed, and government offices have been on skeleton staff for the past two weeks, until January 2. On a hill near the central valley town of Mitla en route to Santiago Matatlán, stands La Cruz del Milagro, where this day and evening people gather near a tiny chapel and large white cross, praying for their needs and wishes to be met the coming year.

If you don’t have easy access to information on these significant dates and occasions, consider hanging on to this edition of The Eye for quick reference.

Alvin Starkman operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca (www.mezcaleducationaltours.com).

Revolutionary Inventions

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

The human emotions and social processes that stir revolutions are similar across time. But the particular strategies and tactics used by revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries differ over time, based on the technology that then exists. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 occurred in the midst of technological revolutions as well.

Ironically, several of the key new technologies were fostered and promoted by the dictator José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, but were turned against him and used to abolish his thirty-year grip on Mexico. These included the development of the national railroad system, the importation of easily loaded rifles, and the advent and refinement of photojournalism.

Although plans for the first railway line in Mexico – between Veracruz and Mexico City – had been drawn in 1837, intermittent political upheaval prevented final construction until 1873. The line was inaugurated by President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, who was Porfirio Díaz’s immediate predecessor. During Porfirio Díaz’s regime, the railroad system in Mexico grew from slightly over 640 kilometers to over 24,700 kilometers. The populace of Mexico was outraged by Diaz’s reliance on financiers from the US, Britain, and France to build this system. In addition, the new railroads reaching from Mexico City to Texas, linking cities along the Pacific Coast, branching into cities along the gulf coast, and crossing the Sonora desert, essentially united previously isolated communities.

Just as in the French revolution, where rallying cries to overthrow the government traveled along river routes, in Mexico the sparks of revolution literally and figuratively traveled over rail routes. Díaz’s pride in his realized dream of bringing modern transportation to Mexico turned into his nightmare. Not only did the railways provide easy mobility to the revolutionaries, but the vast number of Mexicans recruited for railway building and maintenance created a new labor class in Mexico. Added to the oppressed agricultural workers, who comprised a significant number of those rebelling against the Díaz administration, the railroad workers united to aid the campesinos with transportation, arms, and formidable strength in battles.

Just as the railroads were produced by foreign investors, many of the arms used in the revolution were foreign imports. These included swords from Spain and the U.S. and Bowie knives from Texas. But perhaps the deadliest weapons to turn the tide in the revolution were Winchester rifles that flowed into the hands of the revolutionaries from border cities in Arizona and Texas. Although rifles and gun powder were known in China as early as the 10th century, firearms had been cumbersome to use, since the ammunition needed to be loaded through the muzzle and the rifle had to be primed between shots. In the mid-18th century, American ingenuity produced the Springfield rifle, which was loaded from the breech and eliminated the need to prime the weapon, thereby reducing the time between shots. Not long after, the Springfield rife was modified so that more bullets could be loaded through the breech and multiple shots could be taken before recharging.

As with many new inventions, the advent of this new technology stimulated others in the industry to copy and improve on the rifle design. Díaz was impressed with a Mexican rifle design that he thought likely to provide state-of-the-art weapons, since it had a high-pressure round. He contracted with a Swiss munitions company, SIG, to produce several hundred rifles called “Mondragons” – the name of the designer. The high-pressure feature of the Mondragon failed to live up to its potential and the Mondragon was modified by a British company to incorporate a Mauser 7mm. The head of SIG warned Diaz that marriage of the Mondragon with the Mauser was a huge mistake, but Díaz ordered 4000 of the rifles, renamed the Porfirio Díaz Mondragon, for his army. The warning of SIG turned out to be right on the mark, and the rifles were a colossal failure.

At the same time, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in Connecticut developed its series of level-action carbine rifles. The 30-30 model was released in 1895 and proved such a sound technology that the rifle, with some modifications, is still manufactured today. The Winchesters flowed into Mexico and into the hands of the revolutionaries, notably into the hands of the notorious Pancho Villa, and was so revered by the revolutionary armies that they literally sang its praises:

With my 30-30
I’m leaving
To join the ranks of rebellion
If my blood asks, I give blood
For the inhabitants of our nation.

Winchester-carrying revolutionaries, both men and women, posed in front of trains and captured the fancy of viewers around the world. The photo journalists who romanticized the uprising and the overthrow of Díaz were themselves an outgrowth of a new technology fostered by Díaz. Photographic propaganda was first introduced in Mexico by the French during the short reign (1864-67) of Emperor Maximillian. The strategy of creating a sympathetic portrait of the Emperor through photography was decidedly not successful, since in the end he was executed by firing squad. Nevertheless, Díaz saw the potential of recording the advances his administration was achieving in modernizing Mexico, and he hired some of the most renowned photographers in the country, including Frida Kahlo’s father Guillermo. In addition, Díaz commissioned them to photograph Mexico’s natural wonders to promote tourism.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Rafael Reyes Spíndola, who owned several newspapers, began using photos to accompany the stories in his papers, Díaz made sure that his accomplishments were front and center. The only other photojournalism stories that were condoned were society events such as weddings and balls. But once again, Díaz’s promotion of a new technology was turned against him. When the revolution began, such picturesque studies emerged that photojournalists from the U.S. and Europe flocked to Mexico to record the revolution. While Díaz captured the investors of the world in his determined push to modernize Mexico, the rest of the world was captivated by the scenes presented by the photojournalists – the horrors of war, the plight of the poor, and the determination of the Mexicans to free themselves from the domination of Porfirio Díaz. And so, with the railroads Díaz created, the use of modern weaponry Díaz promoted, and the support of sympathetic readers of photojournalistic accounts of their struggle, they did.

One Family after the Revolution

By Brooke Gazer

Anyone who has visited Mexico will have heard of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20); well over a million people perished in that struggle for land and freedom.

But what about the displaced estate owners? What became of them and their families? A friend recently told me how her great, great grandfather lost most of his property during the revolution and continued her saga to the present. Mariana’s story demonstrates how loss and resilience can bring about great things.

The Revolution and the Family
Ángel Zimbrón and his family lived a privileged life on a vast tract of land in the Mexico City area, which included several ranchos. Zimbrón controlled over thirty-three square kilometers of livestock, corn and produce. His holdings were known as Azcapotzalco, and after the Revolution, the estate was incorporated into the northwestern part of Mexico City. The area, which still bears the name Azcapotzalco, is one of sixteen municipalities that comprise Ciudad Mexico; there is a neighborhood called Ángel Zimbrón, where you can now rent an apartment on the park, near the Metro, for under $400 USD a month.

During the Revolution, they lost all their land, except a small triangle called El Pañuelo. A pañuelo is, among other things, a handkerchief that has been folded into quarters and folded again into a triangle. Señor Zimbrón built homes for reach of his six children on this property

Third Generation
Alejandro Velasco Zimbrón, one of Ángel’s many grandsons, was born in 1908, towards the end of the Revolution. Despite his mother’s being widowed at twenty-four, he had a happy childhood playing with his siblings and numerous cousins. He was a kind child who ministered to injured animals, putting splints on chicken’s broken legs.

As Mexico City grew, the municipality developed major streets through Azcapotzalco. One cut a swath through their property, causing the family’s landholdings to shrink even further. As families expanded, the El Pañuelo estate became insufficient for supporting the growing brood. Several young people left to seek their fortune elsewhere, including Alejandro Velasco Zimbrón.

Young Velasco became a noted orthopedic doctor, a visionary who developed procedures and treatments for victims of polio. He co-founded Mexico’s first Children’s Polio Hospital. In the late 1940s he also founded a “bone bank” and implanted bone in people with severe bone damage. One of his patients was the artist, Frida Kahlo, who, after being struck by a bus in 1925, suffered from these injuries her entire life. Despite his status, Dr. Velasco was a generous and caring physician. He treated all classes equally, commonly accepting a chicken or a sack of corn in payment for his services.

Many of the children he treated expressed fear of the radiology machine, so to reduce their stress, he held them during the procedure. As a result, Dr. Velasco died in 1960 of complications from overexposure to this radiation. He was only fifty-two.

Fourth Generation
Octavio Velasco was one of the doctor’s six children. While studying architecture, Octavio met a young Spanish man named Vicente Gandía. Growing up in Spain, Vicente developed polio at age three. His family had heard of Dr. Velasco’s success in treating the disease, but could not afford to travel to Mexico. Even though polio left Vicente needing a cane to walk, he matured into a handsome man with a charismatic manner.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Vicente’s communist-leaning uncle was forced to flee his homeland, and Mexico accepted many refugees from Spain. In 1951, Vicente’s widowed mother brought her family to live with her brother in Mexico. At age 16, Vicente helped support his family as an assistant to a newspaper illustrator, and he painted greeting cards. Later, he had some success printing his work but, believing that art provided a poor income, his mother encouraged him to study architecture. As classmates, Vicente and Octavio quickly developed a friendship.

Architecture did not inspire Vicente. When he dropped out to pursue a career as an artist, the two men lost touch. Vicente struggled as a painter, while Octavio became an accomplished architect. Ten years later, the two friends renewed their acquaintance and frequently met in coffee houses.

It was only by chance one day that Vicente caught a glimpse of Andrea Velasco, Octavio’s twenty-one-year-old sister. They were both visiting the same hospital maternity ward, each attending to members of their own family. Three days later, Vicente told Octavio that his sister’s beauty had captivated him to the point of obsession. He begged permission to court Andrea.

At the age of thirty, his work showed promise, but living a loose bohemian lifestyle, Vicente had insufficient income to support a family. He wanted not only to win Andrea’s affection, but also her hand. This was a turning point. Inspired by his new love, Vicente dedicated himself to becoming a well-established artist. Four years later, Andrea and Vicente were married.

By mid-1970, Vicente Gandía was beginning to be “discovered” and by the late 1980s, he had become a distinguished artist of international acclaim.

Fifth Generation
Vicente passed away in 2009, but his daughter, Mariana Gandía Velasco, carries on the artistic family tradition as a respected costume designer in Mexico City.

In five generations since the Revolution, this family has experienced remarkable twists and turns. Had the family stayed on the hacienda, their lives would have been far less interesting. Fewer Mexican children would have received treatment for polio. One of Mexico’s artists may never have reached his pinnacle. And I would not have met my friend Mariana.

Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, an ocean-view bed and breakfast in Huatulco http://www.bbaguaazul.com.

Rotary Club of Huatulco

By Rebeca Anaya Cárdenas

The Rotary Club of Huatulco has been working behind the scenes for most of the pandemic and is gradually re-entering local communities in person to get back to work providing services.

The Park Library, a valuable resource in the community since October 2017, was constructed by our club and generous donors. The Library has been on standby regarding active daily use and continues to coordinate hours of operation based on municipal guidance.

Regardless of the challenges, and thanks to the donations of Rotarians from the US, we have achieved the construction of a second module within the library compound, the Rotary Salon. This beautiful palapa, used for weekly meetings of the Rotary Club, is also available to rent for private meetings through the Park Library. Rental donations are appreciated based on a suggested love offering, and dependent on the requirements for the space.

Liz St. Germaine, current President of Rotary Club Huatulco, invites the public to inquire about the Park Library’s “Pandemic Hours,” which allow private admission to the library via appointment until the time the municipal authorities authorize reopening fully. The Park Library telephone number is (958) 688 5085. Liz can be reached at this number by leaving messages with the librarian, Socorro Lopez Diego. The secretary of Rotary Huatulco, Dra. Reyna Rangel, can also facilitate in providing information about the library and its many benefits to the public, including rentable meeting space, seminars, movie nights, language classes, summer school activities, art classes, puppet shows and stage materials, and competitions.

In August Rotary Huatulco, working with the Rotary Club from Boise, Idaho, via member Mike Jones, provided two oxygen concentrators, which were delivered to the Director of the Red Cross, Liane Factor. These two concentrators are in addition to those donated by Canadian Rotary clubs that are in use in the IMSS and Santa Maria hospitals for COVID patients with oxygen needs.

Since September, Club Rotary Huatulco has entered into an alliance with the Huatulco Food Bank to distribute food staples to those without work due to the pandemic, dispersing items from the Park Library in Sector U2 on a monthly basis. The Food Bank specifies the parameters for those who qualify for the bags of staples; qualifying families can receive three monthly food deliveries. With more donations, that figure could grow.

Should you wish to support this much needed food distribution, please make your donation to Randall Clearwater at the HSBC Bank, debit card no. 4213 1680 5292 5146; you can also contribute by PayPal or e-transfer to email: rlclearwater@gmail.com. Donations in kind are welcome; please communicate with Wilfred Justiano at tel.
229 435 6083.

Rotary International has implemented an effort worldwide of reforestation called Duelo Verde (Green Mourning) in which all clubs are planting trees in memory of those in our communities lost to COVID-19. Rotary Huatulco has joined this initiative in planting memory trees; our goal is based on 55 lives lost to date.

During the week of September 20, Rotary Huatulco participated in another fulfilling alliance, sponsored by the Guelaguetza Rotary Club from Oaxaca City, delivering 200 specialized wheelchairs to individuals with cerebral palsy. The effort involved working cooperatively with ten Rotary Clubs from the state of Oaxaca.

Watch for the Grand Re-Opening of the Park Library at a date soon to be determined!

Interested in Rotary? Please contact President Liz St. Germaine or Secretary Dra. Reyna Rangel for more information.

Sea and Field:Dinner by Slow Food Huatulco

By Alfonso C. Rocha Robles
Director, Slow Food México

This first dinner of the Slow Food Huatulco Ecogastronomy community was held on September 15, 2021, at Café Juanita in the Tangolunda section of Bahías de Huatulco. Special guests invited to this dinner were Sra. Minerva Ortiz and her daughters Nancy and María. Local food producers in Bajos de Coyula, they produce and market a variety of products from their community. For this event, they brought a Mexican green called chepil (often used in tamales), camarones (shrimp), tincuiche (tiny fresh-water fish), mirasol chilis, pumpkin flowers, and nanche (or nance, cherry-sized yellow fruit).

The fishermen and food producers supported by the dinner came from the coast, the isthmus, and the Sierra Sur. Jane Bauer, community spokesperson for the Slow Food Huatulco community, opened the doors to chef Alfonso Rocha, international counselor for Slow Food México and Central America, who is here to promote the Slow Food movement in Bahías de Huatulco. During the dinner Jane commented to Rocha, “We are very proud to be part of the Slow Food movement to promote local products and producers, which is crucial to maintaining diversity in our food systems.”

Also served at the dinner were “slow” beverages that are integrated into the Slow Food network in Mexico, such as the slow beer made with blue corn from Michoacán by the brewery La Brü in Morelia, or pulque (a fermented agave drink) from Zacatlán de las Manzanas, integrated into the Oaxaca Mixteca Agave Slow Food Presidium in the Mexican Highlands.

Besides Sra. Ortiz and her family, local fishermen and food producers from La Crucecita provided ingredients for the dinner. In the days leading up to the event, Chef Alfonso dedicated himself to establishing links in the town that will strengthen the Slow Food network in the Bahías de Huatulco region. Alfonso commented during the dinner, “There is great potential to promote traditional foods of the region among local residents and businesses of Bahías de Huatulco because of the great milpa and sea biodiversity linked to local communities.”

The menu for this dinner consisted of four courses, made with more than 20 local foods, including quelites (Mexican greens), vegetables, cheeses, fish and fruits from the region. The menu included the following special slow food dishes:

  1. Tacos of tincuiches with milpa salad and fresh cheese from the Isthmus region.
  2. “Drunk” Ceviche made with Zacatlán pulque and pipicha (a Oaxacan herb with a spicy citrus/cilantro flavor) served on a red corn toast from the Mandimbo community (located on the Copalita River a couple of hours north of the town of Copalita).
  3. Handmade chepil fettucine with ranch egg, creamy pumpkin flower sauce and morita chili with sautéed squid.
  4. Chiapas double cream cheese cheescake with blue corn pinole (ground toasted heirloom blue corn mixed with spices) and a cocoa toast crust from the Mandimbo community.