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Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.” Robert Reich

The ritual of beverages: morning coffee, glass of wine with dinner, champagne for celebrations, hot chocolate for first snowfalls and a lime margarita once your toes hit the sand as you embark on a holiday. Most of us are quite committed to the ritual of our drinking habits, whether it is a ‘grande non-fat chai latte’ from Starbucks at the airport or your favorite brand of beer when watching your favorite sports team.

In this issue our writers explore beverages. Mexican classics such as coffee, chocolate, beer and pulque. I was driving through my village while contemplating what to write about for my editorial when I spotted a six-year old boy I know coming out of the tienda. Barefoot and with a little puppy nipping at his heels, he struggled to hold the 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola he’d just purchased. Ugh how could I have overlooked the most important beverage crisis that Mexico faces.

After the implementation of Nafta on January 1, 1994, Mexico saw a dramatic rise in consumption of sugary beverages and processed foods.

“In addition to dramatically lowering cross-border tariffs, Nafta let billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into Mexico, fueled the growth of American fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and opened the floodgates to cheap corn, meat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods” (New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017).

The rise in diabetes and obesity in Mexico was a huge factor before the pandemic, but has never been more paramount than now, given that these conditions make people at much greater risk.

One of the ways that junk food has infiltrated small communities that have traditionally been very self-sufficent – growing corn, fishing, relying on the vegetation found around the village – has been to offer inexpensive non-perishable products and incentives such as free refrigerators and even low-interest loans for expansion.

A new development is stickers on processed foods warning people about high sugar and fat contents. Whether this will lead to a reduction in consumption of such foods has yet to be determined. The state of Oaxaca did implement a law making it illegal to sell junk food to minors. Enforcement is another beast entirely.

“In the rural Oaxacan town of Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, citizens have physically blocked chips and soda delivery trucks from entering since April, saying they don’t want outsiders to bring in the coronavirus or junk food” (NPR ,September 14, 2020).

I don’t know if that is the answer, but I do know we need to start asking the question.

Cheers,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family.”
Ban Ki-moon

Race, gender, sexual orientation and religion are things we use to identify and separate us. We can now add vaccinated and non-vaccinated into the mix.

I am back in my village and it is a full year since kids here have had in-person classes. As in many places, group gatherings have been suspended until further notice- the future is in limbo. Unlike other places most households have ten or more people living there and there isn’t any internet or cell service so zoom classes aren’t a thing. Nobody wears masks or social distances in my village. When this whole thing first came down the village put up a barrier at the main entrance to restrict entry. However, few outsiders stop here and arguments about whose turn it was to monitor the gate soon caused the villagers to remove the barrier. School is still on hold.

The little boys who live next to me call out while I am making coffee. They can see through the fence separating our houses that I am there. They point to pieces of Mega blocks that have ended up on my side of the fence. I pick them up and pass them through. One of my dogs follows me and when they see him they call out his name with jubilation.

These kids have missed a year of school. As I move through the village and I see kids hanging around the tienda, chasing chickens for sport and sword-fighting with sticks, I feel defeated. While this quaint throwback scene to simpler times is touching, it will leave a mark on them if things do not get back on track. Home schooling via zoom with parents at home is a luxury. Access to getting a vaccine is a sign of privilege. While we lament how our world has changed in past year- the frustrations and restrictions regarding travel and home offices- most of us will bounce back. Much of the world will not.

This issue our writers explore the theme of Migration and Transition. Migration is a part of nature: the monarchs, the geese and now, driven by climate change, animals moving south from the Arctic. We are all trying to survive and for most people migration is about survival.

I heard on the news this morning about how there are many unaccompanied children are arriving at the US border with the idea that a better life awaits them on the other side. Why do we have children walking to find new homes? Why are there 26 million refugees currently living in host communities? Because we allow the things that identify us to also be the things that separate us. We get comfortable on our side of the fence with a feeling of entitlement that in some way we are more deserving to be in these positions. However, isn’t it all random luck or the situation you happened to be born into?

Until next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. … It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

How relevant is the feminist movement today and how pervasive is gender inequality?

I have found myself trying to answer this question often in the past few years. While I was growing up there was a certain amount of what became termed victimization attached to the feminist voice as statistics of domestic abuse and sexual harassment were recounted. I recall the ‘walksafe’ program at my university that it was expected women would call if they needed to walk after dark. And if you didn’t call and something happened, well, then you were to blame. However, the world is also a dangerous place for men and if we relied on data we would see that many men also face harassment and violence. More men than women go to war or join law enforcement or go to prison.

Women hold more political and economic power than in the past – not all over the globe, but in many developed countries. It has been suggested to me in social situations that gender inequality is hardly a main global concern. And yet I still believe it is. I believe it because of the women I know in rural Mexico who struggle to go to school. I believe it when I browse the internet and see women’s bodies sexualized in advertising and popular cultural.

Is all fear and danger equal? I recently read a wonderful short story called “The Wind” by Lauren Groff about a woman running away from her abusive police officer husband. The narrator is the daughter of one of the children and the final paragraph was so moving and poignant that I cried because I recognized this fear that I had been unable to put into words.

“The three children survived. Eventually they would save themselves, struggling into lives and loves far from this place and this moment, each finding a kind of safe harbor, jobs and people and houses empty of violence. But always inside my mother there would blow a silent wind, a wind that died and gusted again, raging throughout her life, touching every moment she lived after this one. She tried her best, but she couldn’t help filling me with this same wind. It seeped into me through her blood, through every bite of food she made for me, through every night she waited, shaking with fear, for me to come home by curfew, through every scolding, everything she forbade me to say or think or do or be, through all the ways she taught me how to move as a woman in the world. She was far from being the first to find it blowing through her, and of course I will not be the last. I look around and can see it in so many other women, passed down from a time beyond history, this wind that is dark and ceaseless and raging within.”

So let us not compare our heartaches and tragedies, gender inequality isn’t a men vs. women debate. It is about making the world a place where all of us can feel free. Until the wind that Groff writes about is a thing of distant memory, the feminist movement will be relevant.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.”
Thomas de Quincey

Hello 2021!

As we have done for the past four years, the theme for our January issue follows the Chinese New Year. We are entering the Year of the Ox, which hopefully will be better for humanity than 2020’s Year of the Rat.

When I was in India last year, cows wandered the streets as stray dogs do in Mexico. They would approach me and nudge my hand with their head to be petted. These encounters filled me with a strange combination of bliss and sadness. When I returned to Mexico, I went to see some land with a man from my village. There were three cows there and, fresh from my India experience, I approached one and placed my hand on its forehead. Our eyes met and the cow responded to my touch by moving its head towards me. The man who had brought me there looked on quizzically; it was clear he thought I was ridiculous.

So often we overlook the charms of animals that have been domesticated for consumption. As we do with humans, there is a definite hierarchy when it comes to how we dole out our concern for animals. Afterall, I have often made the sassy comment that when people come to a Mexican village and ‘rescue’ a dog, why do they leave the chickens behind? I am being facetious, of course, and this is not a plea that everyone should stop eating meat and welcome chickens into their living rooms (don’t- they are very messy!). I just find it interesting to contemplate how we collectively seem to decide on this hierarchy, and also how it differs from culture to culture.

While I was growing up my mother had a painting that hung in the kitchen of a woman with her hand extended to a cow. Perhaps that is where my fascination came from.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Putting out the magazine has been such a gift during this season when we are separated from so many of our loved ones.

Thank you to the amazing writers, contributors, advertisers and readers who make this possible!

See you in February,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquility, as if eternity lay before them. It is a lesson I learn every day amid hardships I am thankful for: patience is all!”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Mexico is a palette of vibrant colours and emotive energy that make even the smallest moments in the day feel like a living canvas. Perhaps that is why it produces so many accomplished artists.

What is the thing that propels someone to pursue art? To want to capture a feeling, a thought or a moment and make it static so others can experience it as well. Most of us were first introduced to drawing and painting as children to help us make sense of the world around us … “Draw a house, a family, your dreams, your summer vacation.” Somewhere along the way, when it became clear we weren’t going to be the next Claude Monet or Mark Rothko, we put down our pencils and brushes and moved on to the next thing.

This has been a difficult time for almost everyone I know: health concerns, financial insecurity, fear, loneliness due to self-isolation and a general sense of dealing with the uncertainty of the future. After all, a year ago we would never have been able to predict where we are right now.

Art and creative pursuits are more important than ever to help us make sense of the world. Art is born out of conflict and struggle – it will be interesting to see what is produced during these times. To understand the world around you, look at the art that people are creating.

Rilke writes of the quiet tranquility where you become an artist. Turn off the TV, put down your phone, close your computer and just listen to the hum of your refrigerator. Feel your heart beating in your chest, look at the tree outside your window … What is going on in your life? If you could capture one moment or feeling or thought and share it with the world or even just one person, what would it be? Maybe you don’t know … maybe you think that you have nothing to say.

Pick up the pencils and paintbrushes you discarded long ago and be patient. It will come and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.”
— Sterling Hayden

I am writing this month’s editorial from an apartment in Athens, Greece. While this may seem like the worst possible time to leave your house, I am seizing the chance to be a global pandemic traveler.

I embraced the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown by taking an online class in Greek mythology, learning German with Duolingo, writing, cooking new dishes, reading the pile of books on my bedside table, biking in Huatulco’s National Park and meeting up with only a few friends. My daughter was home from university and it was wonderful to be able to spend time together without having to schedule it in and rush off to work.

If this pandemic has shown me anything it is that the time for living is today. No longer can we count on putting off our dreams for a later that may not come. So when the opportunity to do a little jet-setting came up, I didn’t hesitate.

The practicalities of the travel part have been quite painless with almost empty airports, mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and temperature-taking. My first stop was Switzerland where I was required to quarantine for 10 days. I got a studio apartment in the countryside and was able to take short walks with views of cows and even a couple of deer one early morning. After quarantine I was able to hike, go to a concert on the Stockhorn mountain, attend yoga classes and float down the Aare river in an inflatable boat. I have never valued these freedoms more than now.

With rising cases and restrictions being softened and then tightened, in almost every country, it makes it impossible to know what the future will hold. But did we ever really know? Even before the world came to a standstill, wasn’t each day a gift and the concept of the future just a comforting illusion? For myself, I will not stop making plans, they may change, but I cannot sit still waiting.

There has never been a better moment to set sail for the unknown, the entire world is poised alongside you, filled with uncertainty, and time is ticking away at the same speed as before. I am approaching each day with wonderment at the variety of possibilities it holds.

This month our writers share their stories of learning and growing during these times. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been. Stay physically safe; wear your mask, wash your hands and listen to your heart.

See you next month,

Jane

Editorial April 2020

“We found that trees could communicate, over the air and through their roots. Common sense hooted us down. We found that trees take care of each other. Collective science dismissed the idea. Outsiders discovered how seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly. Outsiders discovered that trees sense the presence of other nearby life. That a tree learns to save water. That trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks.”
― Richard Powers, The Overstory

We are facing harrowing times. Looking at the news each morning we wonder what devastation today will bring. The number of cases and deaths is mounting as coronavirus sweeps across the globe – affecting each country in turn, in a domino effect.

In Huatulco, tourists rushed to head home as governments issued travel warnings and encouraged people to stay inside. Businesses are heeding the call and temporarily closing their doors to protect employees and customers. The streets around the world are quiet. Each of us is glued to various screens for updates and connection.

We don’t know how long this will last or what the long-term effects will be as we realize just how fragile our normalcy is. There have been glimmers of hope, however, and testaments to the strength of the human spirit. The day Italians sang from their balconies filling the streets with joyful song, the number of videos being uploaded offering free classes, concerts and museum tours, shows just how important creativity is to the human experience.

There has also been a shift in our thinking, a need to think of the collective rather than the individual. The idea of working on preventing the spread by staying indoors – not to protect yourself but those around you. If there are repercussions to this world crisis, let this way of thinking remain. Let us carry it over into times of peace. Let us understand the limits of the boundaries we have created: race, class, status. The borders and boundaries we have erected in our desire to claim our identity. These are human-made divisions and if there is something we are learning from this crisis, it is that nature doesn’t care.

Nature will not be stopped by a wall or by how much money you have. As individuals, we are small and made smaller by thinking we stand alone – we are all in this together.

Until next month, stay safe.

Jane