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Update on the Monarch Butterfly

By Jan Chaiken and Marcia Chaiken

Mexico plays an important role in the life cycle of Mariposa monarca, or monarch butterfly, a species that is rapidly dwindling due to climate change. Every year monarchs migrate thousands of miles from northeastern US and Canada southward for the winter, and then northward for the summer. The southbound destination for about 70 percent of all these butterflies is in a forest between Michoacán and Estado de Mexico that has been set aside by Mexico as the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. This 56,000-hectare (140,000-acre) reserve was established in 1980, at which time the number of butterflies migrating there was estimated in the hundreds of millions, approaching a billion. This was well before any significant level of concern about climate change.

Monarchs are known to have migrated to this area since pre-Hispanic times, centuries ago. Studies of the legends of pre-Columbian indigenous people in Michoacán found descriptions of swarms of butterflies flying high overhead in November. The legends depicted them as protectors of the souls of deceased relatives who were returning for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated around the same time.

As the Climate Warms, Monarchs Disappear

The population of migratory monarchs is estimated annually by measuring the area in Mexico’s Biosphere reserve that is covered with butterflies in mid-winter. Analogous measurements are made for the western monarch butterfly, which overwinters in California, including at a reserve near our US home. A few decades ago, there were so many butterflies that the sound of their wings in the trees was like a rippling stream or a rainstorm. Now visitors or scientists have to stand quietly still and stare carefully to observe any butterflies.

The decline in the number of butterflies overwintering in Mexico has been so precipitous (estimated at up to 99 percent in this century, and currently averaging 22 percent per year) that in July 2022 monarchs were placed on the threatened species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning that they are in danger of worldwide extinction unless there is major intervention.

Climate change has impacted the migratory pattern of the monarchs, both in the US and Canada where they breed and in Mexico where they overwinter and become dormant. The temperatures where the butterflies become dormant need to stay cool enough so the butterflies’ metabolism is suppressed and they don’t need to eat nectar (which is nonexistent in the winter) to survive. As temperatures rise in the overwinter destinations, the butterflies become more active but do not have the food they need for survival.

The butterflies actually have developed an adaptation to address this problem. Researchers who take measurements annually observe that the monarchs adjust upward the elevation of resting places they choose in the forests of Mexico. However, the adaptation (around a meter upward a year) has not been adequate to counteract all effects of climate change. For example, climate change has also produced unpredictable fluctuations between too hot and too cold for the butterflies, or between too rainy and too dry.

As Habitat Disappears, So Do Monarchs

Another effect of climate change particularly important to monarchs is the gradual disappearance of milkweed in fields of the US and Canada. Milkweed plants are the only location where female monarchs lay their eggs, so their absence leads to an interruption of the reproductive purpose of the northward portion of migration. In addition to climate change’s detrimental effect on milkweed plants, grasslands containing milkweed and nectar-producing wildflowers in the areas on the butterflies’ migration routes are being converted to cornfields to produce cattle feed and to ranches where the herds can range. The more corn and cattle, the more methane produced by the cattle, the more climate change, the fewer wildflowers and milkweed plants, and thus fewer monarchs.

So what, aside from eschewing steak and hamburgers, should be done to help prevent extinction of the monarchs? The World Wildlife Foundation has a simple recommendation that can be carried out by individual families on the migratory routes. Their motto for this recommendation is “all it takes is one square foot.” By planting native local wildflowers in a garden or flower box, you can assist all kinds of pollinators – not only monarchs but bees and hummingbirds, which are also experiencing declining populations.

You may be rewarded by the sight of monarchs coming to sip nectar from your minigarden – not the erstwhile millions, but in sufficient numbers to know we haven’t entirely wiped these beautiful beings from the face of the earth.

Carmen Boullosa

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Carmen Boullosa is one of the most prolific and thought-provoking Mexican writers of our times. Her award-winning works include 19 novels, several collections of short stories and poems, four plays and a screen play. The many historical subjects on which she focuses range from Cleopatra to Montezuma to 17th-century pirates of the Caribbean to children in contemporary Mexico. Currently, she has two homes – one in the Coyoacán district in Mexico City and one in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to her prodigious output of books and scripts she also writes a regular column for El Universal, a major newspaper in Mexico.

Boullosa was born in Mexico City on September 4, 1954. She was educated in a Catholic girls’ school there, where she became inspired to later write about themes that were forbidden or at least suppressed by her teachers, such as sensuality and feminism. She went on to study for four years (1972-76) at the far more liberal Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). There was essentially no hiatus between her academic studies and her publications, beginning an impressive stream of literary works.

After her marriage to author Alejandro Aura, domestic life seemed to stimulate Boullosa’s artistic productivity rather than hamper it. Her second novel, Antes (Before), a coming-of-age story, was published in 1989; Antes was the novel for which Boullosa was awarded Mexico’s highly prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia Award. In an interview with one of her translators, Samantha Schnee, Boullosa described a rather idyllic life as a young mother writing novels: “My earlier novels all have young girls as the main characters; in the late eighties I once said in an interview that I could never even create a male character. Back then I had two small children, lived in a beautiful house with a garden that had trees growing figs, pomegranates, and bananas … I had lots of friends and no economic problems (we owned a successful theater-bar).”

She obviously inculcated a love for theater in her children Maria and Juan. Juan is a film producer perhaps best known for his production of Rent. Maria has had roles in over a dozen films, almost a dozen plays, and numerous TV productions. However, the idyll ended when her marriage to Aura, who had been married three times before he met Boullosa, also ended in divorce.

The divorce seems to have freed her to pursue an independent academic life as well as continuing her authorship of novels and other works. In 2001 she held the Andrés Bello Chair in Latin American Cultures and Civilizations at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at New York University. She has also been a visiting professor at Georgetown University and San Diego State University, writer in residence for the city of Berlin, and held the Alfonso Reyes Chair at the Sorbonne in fall 2001. She was a Visiting Professor at Columbia in 2003-04 and then a Distinguished Lecturer at City College, CUNY, until 2011. Between 2004 and 2005 she received awards for the best book of poems in Mexico and the best novel in Mexico. Boullosa has traveled widely as a sought-after university lecturer who challenges students to think beyond the ordinary and normative.

Although she is perhaps best known for her depiction of women in her fiction, Boullosa has not confined herself to that genre. In 2004, she married historian and author Michael Wallace, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his history of New York City. Together in 2015, they coauthored A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War”, a controversial treatise on the roots of the drug wars in Mexico and the drug trade between Mexico and the U.S. Boullosa is also known for her art, which has been displayed in museums in New York City and Mexico City.

It is not surprising that this exceptional mundivagant woman should write about other exceptional women … both actual historical figures and fictional characters. But Boullosa’s imagination is so fertile that she can bend time and circumstance so that her women characters overcome situations that were barriers in their lives, real or fictional. Cleopatra and Anna Karenina are seen through different eyes and times. In her latest novel (El Libro de Eva, 2020, to be published in English in March 2023), she recreates the biblical book of Genesis, with its heavy overlay of masculinity, in ten chapters written from the perspective of Eve. Boullosa’s entire cast of novel characters is so engaging that from the opening lines of her books one willingly enters her worlds. Some readers are charmed, others incensed by Boullosa’s flamboyant feminism. But no one is bored.

In addition to her own work, she has fostered the work (and lives) of others. Along with Salman Rushdie, Boullasa founded the Mexico City refuge for persecuted writers. She is reportedly exploring the possibility of opening another facility for persecuted writers in New York City.

If you want to know more about Carmen Boullosa, check out the libraries at major universities for her writings in Spanish or English or the scores of essays and Ph.D. dissertations of which she is the subject. Experience the richness of this most notable Mexican author’s creativity.

Jewish Stories

Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Have you ever wondered why so many well-known writers, including Nobel Prize winners, are Jewish? From Isaac Asimov through Franz Kafka, Lillian Hellman, Emma Lazarus and J.D. Salinger to Elie Wiesel, to name a few, hundreds of Jewish authors have challenged our imaginations and shaped the course of literature. What is it about being Jewish that stimulates the creative impulse to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and pour out captivating tales? One answer may be that Jews are steeped in stories – stories that are thousands or at least hundreds of years old and passed on from generation to generation.

The primary source of these stories is the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians generally refer to as “the old testament.” Jews refer to the first parts of these scriptures as the Torah, or the five books of Moses. The first book alone includes two creation stories, stories about the first humans, the flood that destroyed everyone except for Noah and his clan, the first generations of Hebrews headed by Abraham and Sarah, then Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and his wives (Leah and Rachel) and his concubines who gave birth to the twelve tribes of Israel. The second book is packed with stories about the Israelites becoming slaves in Egypt, their rescue with the leadership of Moses and his sister Miriam, and Mount Sinai where the ten commandments were received.

The whole collection of Hebrew scriptures is called the Tanakh. Included are the well-known stories of Jonah and the whale, the tragedy of Job, the lovely story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, the tale of the love between David and Jonathan, the story of brave Queen Esther who saved the Jews in Persia from being killed by the wicked Haman, and scores of other stories less well known among people who aren’t Jewish. Some of these stories are grim and grisly – stuff of which nightmares are made. Others are inspiring, some championing the rights of women. And there are others that are beautiful stories of erotic yearning.

Many Jews are raised on the stories from Tanakh, often from the beginning of their lives – the day they are born. Jewish children usually are given two names; one a popular name in the country in which they are born and the other a Hebrew name borne by a late relative – the latter is generally drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. The first stories Jewish children generally hear, in addition to The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, are Bible stories about their biblical namesake, the person who bore their name in the Tanakh. The stories become deeply personified. Children named David know they are meant to be musicians and kings. Children named Rebecca love to hear how they were recognized for their kind acts. And little girls named Esther enjoy parading around with a crown acting brave.

Jewish children have been told stories from Tanakh for millennia and given beautifully illustrated books of these stories. The 20th century saw the addition of baby board books and easy reader books with brightly drawn short Bible stories. And stuffed toys such as a Noah’s ark and a little plush replica of a Torah introduce wee ones to stories as they hug them close. Traditionally, at age three Jewish children begin to learn how to read Torah themselves. A piece of honey is placed on the first word to learn; and when the child sucks on the honey while learning to read the letter, the sweet taste of honey becomes synonymous with the sweet taste of learning the stories in Torah.

Stories from Tanakh have for thousands of years stimulated other stories by being embellished. Spin-off stories written by rabbis and scholars have been collected in books called Midrash. Each major character in Tanakh has generated dozens of stories that help flesh out and provide insights into their personalities and motivations for their actions. Abraham is depicted as a child willfully destroying the idols in his home. Sarah is described as one of the most beautiful women in the world even in old age. And Moses as a shepherd, it is told, showed such great compassion for a little lost lamb that he was chosen as the leader to guide the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

Many Jewish children learn these elaborated stories along with the Biblical versions. And when they attend Sunday School or Hebrew School classes, they are encouraged to create their own interpretations of these stories. It is common to see preschoolers or those in the earliest grades of primary school proudly bringing home stories they have written about a character in a Torah story – their letters can be irregular, their words misspelled, and their sentences ungrammatical – but just as midrash written millennia ago is prized, so are these early efforts.

Older children and teens are often encouraged to write their own plays or music based on stories from tanakh and midrash. This creativity, continued into adulthood, has produced innumerable TV programs, movies, novels, poetry, and musical scores, not necessarily on Jewish or religious themes.

So, consider how much of current culture, including magazine articles, is founded on children learning stories.

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Deborah Van Hoewyk

Deborah joined The Eye writers in January 2012 and more recently took on the role of copy editor. Her articles often focus on fund-raising activities of local nonprofit organizations and Mexican culture. Deborah has been actively involved with small community activities since her childhood. Although she was born in Providence, Rhode Island, she was raised and educated in Cumberland, Maine, starting with a one-room schoolhouse. Her first high school years were spent at a local co-ed high school until her parents arranged for her transfer to an all-girls high school. After that, she attended Wellesley College, a prestigious women’s educational institution in Massachusetts, where she first majored in Latin and then English. Having met and married the requisite Harvard man, she left Wellesley after three years and followed her new husband to New York City.

The marriage lasted 10 years, during which Deborah completed a BS degree in English at Columbia University and launched her career in writing and editing, working for a number of organizations including the Foreign Policy Association, Columbia University, New York City agencies, and (Stanley) Kaplan, Inc. After leaving her husband to live on a barge moored in the Bronx, Deborah continued her writing career and earned an MA degree in English from Queens College of the City University of New York. She also met John, her second and current husband, at a cafeteria at CUNY.

After 20 years in New York and a brief hiatus back in Maine, Deborah moved to Detroit and a job writing materials for the auto companies to support their training and development programs. She then enrolled in the urban planning Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, first concentrating on socio-technology and then switching to the field of microenterprise. To support her studies, she taught technical communication in the UM College of Engineering for 18 years. John followed Deborah to Ann Arbor and found a long-term position as a statistician conducting social survey research at the university. They were married in 1986 and in 1987 bought a 40-acre farm on which they raised sheep, goats, pigs and poultry for over 20 years. They retired to Maine in 2010.

Deborah’s first trip to Mexico was in 1979 to visit a friend in Jalapa. After a number of later short visits to various parts of Mexico, in 2004 she and John visited Oaxaca City and decided to also see Huatulco, since it looked “so close” on the map. Even though the road trip was much longer than expected, once here they knew they would return. They bought a house in Huatulco in 2007 where they spent every vacation, renting it out between their stays. Once they retired, their Huatulco time increased until currently they are here about 5.5 months each year. Deborah’s busy life includes belonging to two book clubs but doesn’t allow much time to read other books. She devotes much of her time to writing grant proposals for nonprofit organizations, often gratis, and helping other worthy organizations raise funds. And of course, copy-editing and writing for The Eye is a substantial commitment. Her favorite contribution to the Eye is “The Wisdom of Maíz –Will It Lose Its Voice?” (September 2012).

Hints for Reheating Your Take-Out Meals

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

We are definitely snobs in regard to restaurant dinners. We’ve always preferred long leisurely meals in places known for their excellent cuisine and gracious service. We’ve rarely thought about take-out meals; maybe once a year, pollo rostizado crossed our minds and our lips.

COVID changed all of our lives and our dining habits. During the 2020 lockdown, the retirement community where we live in the U.S. began delivering both lunch and dinner to our homes. And, during periodic surges of new COVID variants throughout 2021 and 2022, we’ve returned to receiving delivered dinners. Even when we are in residence in Huatulco during winter months, we now occasionally have picked up bagged dinners, especially from restaurants that have shifted primarily to take-out menus.

The dilemma faced with take-out lunches and dinners that were originally hot is whether or not to rewarm the food. If reheating, how do you do that without destroying the flavor and texture? Many people opt simply to use their microwave oven. But the executive chef in our retirement community, Chef Valeriy Borodin, received complaints about flavorless, mushy food. He then realized that the ubiquitous use of microwaves was ruining his carefully prepared creations. Chef Val held an online forum to provide instructions for reheating specific dishes. Here are some of his hints:

· Pasta in red sauce. This is one dish that can be microwaved, but first add more red sauce and just microwave for a very short time until warm.
· Pasta in white sauce. Request the sauce separate and heat it in a frying pan, stirring until hot; then add it to the pasta. The sauce will reheat the pasta.
· Pasta in oil-based sauce. Reheat the pasta in a frying pan and then add the sauce to the pan.
· Baked pasta such as mac and cheese or lasagna. Reheat it in oven.
· Meat chops/roasts. These are better if ordered when dining at a restaurant. But if they are to be taken home or delivered, order them less cooked than you usually enjoy eating them, and when they arrive, sear them on high heat in a frying pan for just a few seconds on each side. Never microwave meat.
· Fish/seafood in red sauce. This dish can be reheated in a microwave, but just until warm.
· Fish/seafood pieces other than in red sauce. Order them “undercooked” and rewarm them in a frying pan
· Roasted vegetables. Reheat them in an oven.
· Steamed vegetables. Microwave covered just until warm.
· Sauteed vegetables. Pan fry until warm.
· Broths. Reheat in microwave.
· Soups that are creamed or contain pasta. Reheat in a sauce pan.

There are some takeout dishes that Chef Val didn’t address – dishes that even the least experienced consumer would never rewarm in a microwave – such as pizza. Of course, our grandkids are happy to eat leftover pizza for breakfast right out of the refrigerator. But for those of us who yearn during lockdowns for freshly prepared dishes served piping hot right from the restaurant’s grill or kitchen, properly reheating take-out dishes is a passable substitute. ¡Buen provecho!

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Brooke Gazer
Brooke has also been contributing a diverse spectrum of articles to The Eye since the beginning of the publication. One of the few Mexican citizens on staff, Brooke brings her relatively long-term year-round residence to inform her writing about local organizations and people as well as Mexican history and government.

Brooke was born, raised and educated in Calgary, Alberta; she received a B.Ed. degree, majoring in Fine Arts and Drama, from the University of Calgary. In between high school and college she spent a year traveling and working in Europe, first as an au pair in Munich, Germany, and then selling clothing in a posh ladies’ store in London, England. She returned to Europe, studying art history in Italy as part of her major concentration. After university, she taught arts and drama in junior and senior high school in rural Alberta, managed an art gallery for three years, spent two years selling and creating advertisements for a lifestyle magazine, and then settled down for a relatively long career as a pharmaceutical company representative.

While she was managing the art gallery, she met her husband Rick at a fitness club where both were members and after dating for a number of years, they married. Both enjoyed traveling and visited Asia three times (Hong Kong, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma). Over the years, they also made several trips to Mexico. But it was during their first trip, forty years ago, that Brooke began to think about running a B&B. She was sitting in a garden at a bed and breakfast, owned by an American couple in San Miguel Allende, and she thought, “What a great life this would be.” The idea seemed so farfetched that she never mentioned this to anyone, not even Rick.

When her job as a pharmaceutical rep seemed to pale, however, she raised the idea. They tried out the concept, renting out two rooms in their house in Calgary. Three years later, they packed up all their belonging, sold their house and drove to Mexico. For six months, they explored every beach community on the Pacific Coast, from San Carlos, Sonora, to Huatulco, Oaxaca. When they reached Huatulco, they knew they had found the perfect place. They bought property, designed and built their new B&B and successfully ran the business for 22 years. At the end of 2021, they sold the enterprise and moved to Merida along with their 12-year-old golden retriever, Tango.

Brooke will continue contributing to The Eye from Merida. Her favorite past contribution was the article she wrote on the Mexican Revolution, “Viva la Revolución” (November 2013); she enjoyed the research needed to understand and explain the complexity of this civil war.

Noisy Birds on the Oaxaca Coast

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

We grew up the East Coast of the U.S., where the primary sounds of birds were sweet and melodious. Their songs marked the seasons. The chirping of robins meant spring was here. The summer was filled from sunup to sundown with trills and warbles of brightly colored goldfinches, cardinals, orioles, and the more somberly attired nuthatches. Fall was brought in by the songbirds flocking together and filling the trees with melodies as they prepared to fly south. And even in the coldest days of winter, tiny chickadees hopped around on snow-covered branches as they cheeped their little conversations.

Imagine our surprise when we were introduced to the noisy birds on the Oaxaca coast making a racket as their sounds punctuated the day. We simply don’t need an alarm clock in Huatulco. The chachalacas wake us as soon as the sun rises. Although they are large and heavy, resembling turkeys or overgrown quail, we heard them long before we saw them. Their name means “chatterbox,” but “clatterbox” would be more accurate. Their calls to each other sound like a metal spoon dragging along a washboard. And since they are clothed in feathers of various shades of browns and greys and hide out in bushes and trees, they can be frustratingly hard to spot even though they sound as if they are close enough to touch.

We first actually saw, rather than heard, chachalacas years ago in Santa Cruz driving on a street that ended in relatively dense and high vegetation. Seven or eight of them were comically hanging out on one tree, their combined weight dragging the branches almost to the ground. At first we couldn’t recognize them, since it was after sunset and they were very quiet. But our headlights disturbed one and he or she gave a loud cackle waking the others who called out in an affronted cacophony. We had no doubt that they were the infamous chachalacas who frequently woke us, so we felt justified in turning the tables. Their ability to hide must be an adaptation to being hunted and cooked. Reportedly their meat is very tasty, and said, of course, “to taste like chicken.” Of course, many wild creatures, including snakes, are said to taste like chicken. But we intend to continue using them as alarm clocks rather than dinner. (For more on this bird, see “The West Mexican Chacalaca – Best Known for Its ‘Song’,” in the July 2013 issue of The Eye.)

We are often amused in the late morning and afternoon by white-throated magpie jays. These noisy members of the crow family have bright blue backs, a long blue tail, white breasts, a distinctive black v-shaped bar that rings its lower neck, and a comical curly-cue black crest that bobbles around as it hops from tree limb to tree limb. Magpie jays seem to spend most of their time screeching at each other and squabbling over insects and seeds. The only time they seem to be quiet during the day is when they are by themselves or when they stealthily position themselves near an outdoor human dining area to swoop down and steal a piece of bread or tortilla chip. On the off chance that a human is fast enough to protect the food from the swooping magpie jay, they are likely to find a nearby perch and scream until the human gives up and tosses the desired food to the irate bird. Some outdoor restaurants on the Oaxaca coast, plagued by aggressive magpie jays, have hung curtains to discourage the little beggars. Although we appreciate not needing to fend off avian thieves, we miss being able to watch the reactions of other diners who suddenly realize that part of their meal has been converted into a magpie jay free-for-all.

Mexico has 22 species of parrots and macaws, so parrots are plentiful on the Oaxacan coast. There are three varieties named for the frontal patch right above the beak – white (Amazona albifrons), lilac (Amazona finschi) and orange (Eupsittula canicularis). The little fellow with the orange frontal patch and long tail is actually a parakeet. But all of them are mostly green. And when they are flying from tree to tree and squawking while in motion, it’s difficult to tell them apart. Our favorite time to watch parrots (and many other birds) is during the period right before sunset. The birds flock together and begin searching for a place to roost overnight. Whole treetops seem to blast into air, as the flocks soar and, as one, find another tree to occupy. This visual phenomenon repeats itself several times until, using unknown criteria, the flock settles down for the night. But each time the flock comes in for a landing the group conversation is close to deafening. The sunset brings out a cacophony of ear-splitting, hard, harsh avian sounds multiplied by up to a hundred or more voices.

Finally, the bird whose noise punctuates the quiet of day all day long and sometimes even at night, is the woodpecker. There are three local varieties of the woodpecker; the lineated, pale-billed, and golden cheek woodpeckers. But they are commonly heard more than seen – even though each has a splash of bright red on their heads. Their distinctive ra-ta-tat-tat as they pound away at tree trunks looking for insects to eat can be heard at long distances. So, although one looks for that flash of red in nearby trees, the woodpecker may be deceptively far away. We grew up with woodpeckers, albeit different varieties, most commonly the downy woodpecker, so their drumming was a familiar noise.

But the strident sounds of the chachalacas, magpie jays, and parrots, once startling and unfamiliar, have now become part of our cherished environment in Huatulco.

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Julie Etra has drawn on her professional background in environmental sciences to write many articles about Mexican plants and animals, ever since the second issue of The Eye was published. Julie was born, raised and educated in New Rochelle, New York. When she was still in junior high, the New Rochelle high school building completely burned down, so her high school classes were held in temporary barracks. She then studied in real classrooms at the University of Colorado in Boulder, earning a BA degree in Environmental Biology, followed by completing an MS degree in Soil and Crop Science at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Continuing her westward trek, Julie worked for the U.S. Forest Service in South Lake Tahoe, California, for three years and then decided to start her own business, Tahoe Native Plants. One of her USFS projects involved restoration of land at a community college, and it was there in 1985 that she met her future husband who was also working on the project as a general engineering contractor. In 1990, Julie and Larry decided to buy land in Washoe County, Nevada (near Reno), and build their own home. Living in a 14′ travel trailer that was freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer until their construction was completed, they finally moved into their home, where they still live when not in Mexico. Once settled in Nevada, Julie moved her office to Reno and changed the name of her company to Western Botanical Services, Inc. She has continuously provided botanical surveys and soil analysis as a contractor to private engineering and landscape architecture companies and public entities overseeing implementation of erosion control and land restoration projects. Her business was incorporated in 1994.

Julie is avid about music, plays the piano, and listens to “almost everything.” She also enjoys playing tennis, swimming, gardening and, like the other writers for The Eye, constantly reads books, magazines, and newspapers. Julie first visited Mexico in 1977, where in Cozumel she was certified for scuba diving. In 1988, she and Larry began spending 3 months each year in Baja Sur. They visited Huatulco in 2007 and in 2008, decided to spend the winter here and built a home in Conejos. They also are extensive travelers and, with the exception of Antarctica, have visited every continent; Julie’s favorite is (subSaharan) Africa. Julie has two step-kids from Larry’s previous marriage and two grandkids with whom they stay in close contact.

The first articles Julie published in the Eye focused on corn – three articles on corn – until our editor suggested she might explore other topics and something less technical. The Eye article she enjoyed writing most described her travels with Larry and their puppy during COVID – “It was fun!”

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Marcia Chaiken has been contributing articles to The Eye, most often co-authored with her husband Jan, since the inception of the publication. Together, the Chaikens have had a broad experience in conducting research in many diverse fields, and their Eye contributions have ranged from results of surveys and interviews conducted in Mexico to descriptions of personal experiences during decades of travel in Mexico.

Marcia was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in New Jersey, first in Rahway, where she met Jan at age six, and then in Hackensack. After earning a B.A. degree in Zoology at Douglass College (Rutgers University), where she wrote for the college newspaper and worked in the bookstore, she went on to receive an M.A. in Health Sciences at UCLA and then taught in the Ph.D. program at New York University Medical School. After marrying Jan in 1963, she worked on the staff in the Biology Department at M.I.T. until she took a break from research to have a son and then a daughter. She resumed her studies at Columbia University, switching fields to social psychology. She completed her Ph.D. at UCLA and began conducting research at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, where she and Jan collaborated in carrying out research and analysis and co-authoring publications in the field of criminal behavior and criminal justice. Marcia also carried out research and evaluations of programs for children and women in underserved areas while she held positions at UCLA, Brandeis University, and Abt Associates in Cambridge, and the research company she founded in 1989, LINC. Her many publications helped develop Federal policy and practice throughout the United States.

After retiring in 2011, Marcia completed a course of study in the Jewish Renewal Movement and was ordained as a maggidah (Jewish story-teller) in 2014; she has told stories in Oregon, California, Israel and Mexico. Marcia also earned certification to teach aqua aerobics and has given classes in Oregon and California.

Marcia first visited Mexico when a graduate student at UCLA. While raising their children in Los Angeles, Marcia and Jan frequently spent school breaks with their family and Sheltie driving down into Baja and other northern Mexico states, hiking in the deserts, dancing at fiestas, and relishing meals in Mexico. During the 1990s both Marcia and Jan were working 70 or more hours a week in Washington DC, so for holidays they would fly to the Yucatán and explore archeological sites, cenotes, and lagoons up and down the coast. Longer vacations were spent exploring every continent except Antartica. In 2001, they stored all their belongings and drove through most of Mexico. Huatulco seemed like paradise and they returned annually, staying about seven years in the condo they bought. In 2019 they moved into a cottage in a retirement community in Saratoga, California, where Marcia is active in many organizations and spends her free time reading, walking and exercising in the indoor pool. But Huatulco still draws Marcia and Jan back for months almost every year.

Her favorite Eye contribution is “Pre-Hispanic Residents of Huatulco” (April 2015), since the research for the article required behind-the-scenes investigation in government anthropology departments in Mexico City, Oaxaca City and, of course, Huatulco.

Dr. Quiroz – Huatulco’s Go-To Practitioner

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

We first met Dr. Miguel Ángel Quiroz Tovar about twenty years ago. One day our family arrived in Huatulco to visit us from California, and our granddaughter, who was then six, spent the day diving to the bottom of the pool; by that evening she was holding her aching ear and crying. We called a Huatulco resident who had children around age 6 for advice, and within an hour Dr. Quiroz appeared at our condo. After a few perceptive questions and a quick check, Dr. Quiroz assured us that the pain was caused by air pressure in the plane followed by diving, which forced wax deep in our granddaughter’s ear. He said she needed to come to his office so he good irrigate the ear – assuring her that the procedure would not hurt and her ear would feel much better. Sure enough, when she returned from her office visit, she was her usual smiley self and so excited about having met Dr. Quiroz’s daughter who was exactly her age.

Since then, whenever we’ve had a medical problem while in Huatulco, Dr. Quiroz is generally the person we call. We are not alone. Virtually all the English-speaking residents we know in Huatulco have at one time or another paid him a visit for an ailment.

Miguel Ángel Quiroz Tovar was born and raised in Mexico City. He began learning English in primary school and continued advancing his language skills during his secondary education. He matriculated at the prestigious, highly selective National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) both as an undergraduate and in the School of Medicine where he completed his doctorate degree. His internship and residency, with a specialization in General Surgery, were carried out at the Centro Médico (Medical Center) of the IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security), a government agency that operates as part of the Mexican Secretariat of Health. He was awarded membership in the International Association of Surgeons in 1993.

Practicing at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City, he met and fell in love with a dentist who was also affiliated with the hospital, Patricia Jimenez Bader. Six months after they met, they married. She was originally from Oaxaca, and their wedding took place in Oaxaca City. The young couple traveled to Huatulco for their honeymoon and they found the area so attractive that they decided to return. In 1994 they both set up their practices here.

Huatulco at that time had a dearth of medical services. There was no hospital. And Dr. Quiroz performed the first surgery in the area. His practice rapidly grew, first with Mexican nationals and then, as tourism developed, with visitors and then foreigners who became permanent residents. Later the IMSS created a local hospital, and private clinics began to be established. Dr. Quiroz practiced in the local hospital for a number of years but has shifted his services entirely to private clinics.

Today, at the height of the tourist season, his practice consists of about 30% foreigners. Although he is certified as a surgeon, Quiroz’s first training as a general practitioner is constantly in use. About 60% of the problems that bring patients to his office are abdominal. Over the years, we’ve heard many reports from English-speaking friends about times when they self-diagnosed problems as simple “Montezuma’s revenge” only to become so ill they sought medical help from Dr. Quiroz, who of course realizes that diarrhea can be symptomatic of a host of diseases which must be diagnosed before targeted medication can be prescribed.

Two long-term members of the local English-speaking community credit “Dr. Q” with saving their lives in 2014. First the husband developed symptoms including chills as well as severe abdominal distress. He saw a doctor who medicated him and then left on vacation. His symptoms worsened, and his wife called Dr. Quiroz, who came over to their condo. When he arrived, the wife was also experiencing severe abdominal distress and shaking so vigorously from chills that she could barely talk. Dr Quiroz immediately admitted both of them to a clinic as inpatients and began rehydrating them intravenously. Their symptoms increased to the point that both of them were hallucinating. A round of tests didn’t prove conclusive and Dr. Quiroz told them that he would bring in a specialist and if that didn’t produce a diagnosis he would need to send them to a hospital in Mexico City. Fortunately, he and the specialist identified the problems as being caused by a specific amoeba that responded to medication. The couple are not only grateful for the medical care but also the kindness of Dr. Quiroz’s wife and children during the episode.

In additional to growing their practices, Dr. Quiroz and his wife also grew their family. They have two sons and a daughter. And he is very proud of all their accomplishments. But he seems most gratified by the success of his wife’s dental practice.

About four years ago, doctors in Huatulco organized as The Association of Doctors in Huatulco (Asociación de Médicos de Huatulco). Dr. Quiroz serves as president of the association. Together the doctors hold conferences, invite practitioners from other parts of the country for educational meetings, conduct community health promotion campaigns and provide informational talks on the local radio. The Association grew to include about 40 active members. But the need to respond to the COVID pandemic reduced active membership to about 12. Now that a major proportion of the population has been vaccinated, including almost all of Dr. Quiroz’s patients, the Association’s activities may be restored.

Dr. Quiroz relaxes when he has time by fishing. He enjoys spending time fishing with his sons, sometimes from the beach and sometimes from a boat. He is also an avid reader of historical fiction. The Journeyer (2010), Gary Jennings’ historical novel about Marco Polo, is one of his favorites. And he has read all six books about prehistoric life by Jean Auel.

We were fortunate to have met Dr. Quiroz so very long ago and to have watched his practice and medical services in Huatulco expand to the point where diagnosis and treatment of many diseases no longer require a trip to facilities in Mexico City. We are also amused by the coincidence that Dr. Quiroz’s daughter. whom our granddaughter met at age six, is now – like our granddaughter – in medical school.

Dr. Quiroz’s telephone number is 958 587 6628 and his email is drmaqt@hotmail.com