By Randy Jackson
They began meeting at La Bocana beach on Saturday mornings for boogie boarding more than a decade ago. Back then the only boards available around Huatulco were boards too small for an adult. Although that meant the rides, even on the biggest waves, were quite short, they had a taste of what great fun it is playing in the waves. They returned in subsequent seasons with boards more suited to their size, and their fun in the waves really began.
A boogie board is a trademark term for bodyboards, just as Kleenex is a trademark term for facial tissues. However, “boogie” in front of “board” is an indispensable descriptor of the use of the device, much as “magic” is a descriptor to the term “magic wand” (a wand in medieval English means stick). To “boogie” is to dance, whereas a bodyboard could mean something you lay a cadaver on. So, in the spirit of good clean fun, the Bocana Boarders prefer the term boogie board. And by adding “ing” to “board,” as in Boogie Boarding, it becomes an activity of jollification.
The origin of this activity is attributed to the indigenous peoples of Polynesia. A lesser-known fact in surfing history is that most early Polynesians lay prone on their boards, and only rarely were they observed standing up on them. The Polynesian term for this form of fun is he’e nalu, or “wave sliding.”
The Saturday Boarders of Bocana are a small non-elite group of gringo-pensioners. They are much less fearful of the waves than the possibility of developing neck wattles. But then again, the waves in the snowbird season are generally modest, not at all like the cresting turquoise four-meter waves off French Polynesia. In fact, the surfer term for the type of winter waves at La Bocana is “shoreys.” In Tahiti, shoreys are mostly used by the surfers’ Swedish girlfriends to wash sand off their calves. To the Boarders of Bocana, however, shoreys are riotously more exciting than even the upward curve of bank stocks.
Like good surfers everywhere, the Saturday Boarders of Bocana have honed their skills using practiced techniques appropriate for the conditions. This type of boogie boarding requires one to stand in waist-to-chest-deep water, watching for the appropriate ocean swell that will break into a curl near one’s standing position. Then, facing towards shore, they tuck the back end of the board into their waist while looking back over their shoulder at the rapidly forming wave. Then, just as the wave is about to break overhead, they leap shoreward onto their board, their momentum joining the force of the wave as it breaks.
From shore, the boarder’s motion will appear to hesitate slightly as the wave crests. Then, tipping earthwards as the wave breaks, the boarder shoots downwards and disappears into the crashing water and foam of the breaking wave. It takes two or three seconds for the laws of physics to work out the boarder’s fate. Spectators on shore hold their breath. Sometimes a riderless board is shot skyward (“oooh’s” from the crowd). But, emerging from the wave-froth is the face of a skilled Bocana Boarder, grinning, out ahead of the wall of foam, careening towards the beach. The crowd cheers.
Oh, and the crowd? It’s an imaginary one. The wives and friends of the Bocana Boarders are there each Saturday morning for the event, but not to watch it. Some stroll along the beach, others are busy with their fish tacos and beverages at the restaurant. Alas, the Bocana Boarders’ daring acts of athletic wave conquest are rarely witnessed.
A good ride ends when the board smooches to a stop on the sand, just centimeters from the highest wave mark. That wave delivering the boarder to the beach was a final bit of energy culminating from planetary forces of wind and gravity. While the earth spins at 107,000 kilometers per hour, the gravitational pull of the moon sloshes the oceans like pulling a beer keg out of a bathtub. But as oblivious to these cosmic forces as they are to farting in Walmart, the Bocana Boarder rises from the beach, tucks his board under his arm, and heads back into the oncoming waves.
Yet in this dimension, where time exists, the fun in the waves must inevitably end. So while galaxies rotate, supernovas explode, and nebulas coalesce, there on the edge of a continent, on this blue spinning planet, the Saturday Boarders of La Bocana leave barefoot tracks from the water’s edge, with a promise of fish burgers and later the open-mouthed oblivion of an afternoon nap.
By Carole Reedy
Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this.
— Dave Eggers, prolific writer and editor
Science fiction writers aren’t the only storytellers who work with the themes of time and space. Novelists, too, are beholden to time to create the masterpieces of literature we so deeply enjoy. In fact, writers of all genres magically engage readers through their philosophical treatment of the phenomenon of time. The authors here hail from one of three centuries and from five different cultures: French, British, American, German, and Polish. Their works, at the time they were written, were all revolutionary in style and structure, opening the door for future generations to understand and explore the context in which we live, evolve, feel, and observe.
We can never say enough about the mysterious ascendancy of time.
Topping the list of writers with a penchant for time and memory is the quirky, charming bon vivant Marcel Proust. Best known for recollecting his past after tasting a delectable madeleine, his seven-volume novel (more than a million words) still fascinates readers throughout the world and challenges and mystifies academics.
À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu (1913-27), Proust’s masterpiece, translates to English literally as In Search of Lost Time. However, the popular and dominant translation of Scottish Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff titles it Remembrance of Things Past, a subtle but significant difference.
Proust’s memories are involuntary, sparked by a smell or taste. They do not come bidden by a conscious search. Moncrieff’s title is inspired by and taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, I summon up remembrance of things past.”
Proust’s tome has mesmerized readers for more than a century. And even though it is set in early 20th-century France, the behaviors, emotions, and habits of the characters remain recognizable today. Proust’s mastery of language and nuance is unmatched. The prose is among the most beautiful ever written.
From an early age Proust suffered from asthma, which remained with him into adulthood. He spent the last three years of his life in bed, writing all night and sleeping all day. He died at age 51 in 1922 from pneumonia.
The highly acclaimed British writer Virginia Woolf has been the focus of literary roundtables, college theses, and book club discussions for nearly a century. She was the forerunner of the stream-of-consciousness genre in which her characters observe their everyday surroundings in search of an understanding of life. The style is evident for creating an almost dreamy, trancelike state that welcomes the reader into new worlds.
Recently the Met Opera from New York presented a new production called The Hours. The drama is based on the 1998 novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham, which itself is based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) as well as Woolf’s life. Both books are among my favorites. The novel The Hours is a literary masterpiece in its juxtaposition of time and place.
Mrs. Dalloway is one of Woolf’s most enchanting works, and I believe it to be a perfect novel. The action is reduced to the course of one day in Mrs. Dalloway’s life, but it tells the story of a lifetime of experiences and emotions. The enigma of time.
Another of Woolf’s popular novels is To the Lighthouse (1927). Here the reader accompanies the Ramsey family to Scotland, a place they vacation regularly in the summer. But once again, with the twists of time, the story of a woman is told through the eyes of others as well as her own. The Scottish landscape functions as a significant character in this novel, which scrutinizes a woman’s life and relationships.
Sadly, as is the case with many persons of genius, Wolff suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. At age 59, she walked into the River Ouse in Northern England with a pocketful of rocks and drowned.
This 40-year-old American novelist has recently captured the attention of readers of all ages. Ruthless and bold in her craft, she painstakingly takes us on her characters’ searches for resolution and peace. The emotional development, upheaval, and final settlement of her main characters is only hesitantly revealed through the author’s singular unfolding.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation appeared on many best-seller lists in 2022. The sleep-induced self-cure of the protagonist develops slowly, making for a fascinating journey. Since I was completely satisfied with the novel, I then searched for this young innovative writer’s previous work.
Death in Her Hands (2020) caught my attention as it was tagged as a mystery, a genre among my personal favorites. Yet here is a completely different take. The action is disclosed to the reader exclusively from the point of view of the main character. All is auspiciously resolved in the end despite, perhaps, the reader’s doubt!
Fortunately, Moshfegh is young and undoubtedly is churning many ideas that will make their way into new novels for her demanding fans.
Thomas Mann suggested to his readers that once they finished his novel The Magic Mountain (1924), they read it again. Those who have done so claim it is the most magnificent novel ever written, and many more agree.
Although he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929, principally for Buddenbrooks (1901), a novel based on his own family, it is The Magic Mountain that brought Mann continued fame over the years. It continues to be named one of the best novels of all time.
Apart from the themes of life and death, Mann returns often to the subjective nature of time and our own perspective. In The Magic Mountain, the main character, Hans Castrop, comes to visit his cousin in a sanatorium, falls ill, and spends seven years there himself. The two engage in philosophical arguments about time: does “interest and novelty dispel or shorten the content of time, while monotony and emptiness hinder its passage”? The relationship of time and space is a continuing debate.
Mann lived a long interesting life, in both Germany (his home), Switzerland, and the US. Wartime conditions in Europe, especially in Germany, were the impetus for his relocations.
To know more about this highly regarded writer, I recommend a 2021 novel written by famed Irish author Colm Tóibin called The Magician, which is based on the life of Thomas Mann.
Take the opportunity to watch interviews with this surprisingly bubbly personality. Despite the serious nature of her subjects and writing, Tokarczuk has a contagious sense of humor. The obvious mutually respectful relationship with her English translator, Jennifer Croft, manifests itself in the superb results of this successful team.
Tokarczuk, a clinical psychologist, is a serious writer, evident in the recognition of her work by the Nobel committee in 2018, when she was awarded that coveted prize for “a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
Her book Flights (2007) is a favorite. She won and shared with her translator the Man Booker International Prize for it in 2018. Judges for the National Book Award, for which the novel was short-listed, offer this description: “Brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.”
Tokarczuk’s epic novel, The Books of Jacob (2014) transports the reader over seven borders and five languages, starting in 1752 with the 18th century Polish-Jewish religious leader Jacob Frank, then evolving to the persecution of the Jews in the 20th century. It is her revelations of the past that prophesize and thus advance the pursuit of solutions to present-day problems.
At 61, this politically and socially aware author is active in rights of equality and respect for minorities.
Coincidentally, just before submitting this article I began reading Out Stealing Horses (2003) by Per Petterson. On page 6, I ran across this poignant note: “Time is important to me now, I tell myself. Not that it should pass quickly or slowly, but be only time, be something I live inside and fill with physical things and activities that I can divide it up by, so that it grows distinct to me and does not vanish when I am not looking.”
By Julie Etra
Tenochtitlán was the capital of the Triple Aztec Alliance empire (formed in 1428 and ruled by the Mexica, the empire joined together the three Nahua states of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan). There is not enough space in this column to write about all the marvels of the Tenotchtilán itself, a magnificent city built on the five inland lakes in the Valley of Mexico. The Aztec empire was at its peak when Tenochtitlán was substantially destroyed by the Spanish Conquest in 1521.
Two of the most intriguing aspects of this civilization were its systems of agriculture/food cultivation and water management (they are of course intertwined), especially how these systems were constructed. For those readers interested in more detail, Barbara Mundy’s exhaustively researched and superbly written book is referenced below.
The Valley of Mexico
The basin that comprised the Valley of Mexico had five lakes: Zumpango, Xaltocan, Texcoco, Xochimilco, and Chalco. They were endorheic, i.e., they had no outlet, were hydraulically connected, and formed one enormous lake when flooded. The lakes were shallow, with a depth of no more than 150 ft (45 m); water quality varied. The more isolated southern lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco were higher and protected by the high peninsula formed by Cerro de la Estrella on the east and a “lava plug” to the west; the lakes were fed by springs and rivers, and so held fresh water. Drainage from the higher lakes flowed north to Texcoco (the largest lake), Zumpango, and Xaltocan; the waters of these lakes were brackish (saltier).
Following the discovery of a freshwater spring in Lake Texcoco at what came to be called Chapultepec (“grasshopper hill” in Nahuatl – chapulin = grasshopper, tepec = place), the rocky island of Tenochtitlán was settled on June 20, 1325. The brackish waters supported salt-tolerant aquatic life and were harvested for a species of algae made into edible patties. Flooding during the rainy season not only joined the lakes, but the backwash could threaten the innovative Aztec agricultural system known as chinampas.
The chinampas were rectangular gardens located in the southern lakes. Swampy land was dredged, creating navigable channels between islands. These islands were constructed with logs, reeds, and sticks woven into frames and covered with the muck of soil, mud, roots, and other dredged plant detritus. Whether or not these farmed rectangular parcels floated, as do the modern Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, is still subject to scholarly debate, although the establishment of willows would anchor them. While more investigation might reveal the actual materials, I would guess that the “reeds” included species of cattails (Typha spp.), bullrush (Scirpus spp.), and reeds (Cyperus spp.), all of which grow in standing water or saturated soils and are supple enough to weave. Ahuejote (Salix bonplandiana), an erect willow resembling a poplar, grew on the drier shores, along with ahuehuete (Taxodium mucronatum), aka sabino and Montezuma bald cypress. Ahuejote is derived from the Nahuatl word ahuexotl (atl = water, huexotl = willow). The Spanish word for willow is sauce; think of Sausalito, California, near San Francisco, meaning little grove of willows.
Young, flexible branches of willows were used in constructing the chinampas, and live cuttings were planted for eventual shade and to stabilize the structures through their vigorous and extensive root systems. (The bark of this versatile plant produces salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, and was no doubt an herbal Mexica pain reliever). The dense and durable wood of the ahuehuete was most likely used as posts for the multi-functional causeways called calzadas (more about them in a minute).
According to the noted archaeologists Pedro Armillas and William T. Sanders, the swampland converted into chinampas was estimated to be about 12,000 hectares, enough to support a population of between 117,000 – 200,000 with an annual consumption of 160 kilograms of maiz (corn) per head. What else grew on these islets? Chia, beans, squash, tomatoes, avocados, amaranth, cacao (chocolate), chilies, cotton, and a variety of flowers including marigolds, which are native to Mexico. The Mexica fished and also consumed the endemic salamander, the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl. The axolotl was important in the diet of pre-Hispanic residents of the city, along with ducks and other waterfowl that were trapped in nets.
Construction of the calzadas, the system of dikes and watery causeways, was begun in the 1420s, initially to separate the brackish from the fresh water. They most likely had openings to manage flows, similar to an agricultural sluice gate. The calzadas averaged five to seven meters wide and eight km (about 4.8 mi) in length. To form the dikes, wood posts, perhaps from the locally available black cypress or pine/oaks in the surrounding forests, were anchored in the shallow lakes and back filled with layers of rock, clay, and a mortar of mud and calcium carbonate (limestone). They required constant maintenance.
Netzahualcóyotl, the tlatoani (leader) of Texcoco – and a scholar, philosopher, warrior, architect, and poet to boot – vastly improved on this system of water management. Aside from his military victories, governmental prowess, and poetic skills, he was a superb engineer. According to Wikipedia, “He is said to have personally designed the albarrada de Nezahualcóyotl (dike of Nezahualcóyotl) to separate the fresh and brackish waters of Lake Texcoco, a system that was still in use over a century after his death.”
The construction of the calzadas took place at roughly the same time as the aggressive expansion of the Triple Alliance empire, which handily had 50,000-plus solders available from Nezahualcoyotl’s army. The calzadas also served as roadways, which ironically contributed to the conquest of the city as the Spaniards cut off supplies, particularly the aqueducts conveying water (see below for this third triumph of ancient engineering), from the mainland. The calzadas were the avenues of trade and contributed to the enormous wealth of the city, as the groups conquered by the Triple Alliance, which extended to Guatemala at its height, paid tribute to the capital.
In 1466 Nezahualcóyotl began the construction of another important hydraulic work, the Chapultepec aqueduct system. It supplied fresh spring water to Tenochtitlán. Before the aqueduct system was built, water was supplied by canoe from the springs at Chapultepec (now a large park in the middle of modern Mexico City). Water was distributed through apantles (open pipes) to public fountains and noble houses.
A second aqueduct was built by Nezahualcóyotl’s successor, Ahuítzotl, around 1500. Although Ahuítzotl had supervised a huge project to rebuild Tenochtitlán, completing the Temple Mayor (the Great Pyramid), the aqueduct project didn’t go so well. At the springs of Coyoacán, Ahuítzotal had a dam and two holding tanks built at elevations necessary to create enough pressure to send water into new aqueducts that joined the existing system. As the story goes, about 40 days after the Coyoacán aqueduct opened, it began to rain. It continued to rain. It poured. The elevated design sent high-pressure floodwaters throughout the city, Ahuítzol took refuge in the Temple Mayor, hit his head on a brand new rock, and died shortly after.
I am now out of both time and space!
For more information:
Mundy, Barbara E. The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, The Life of Mexico City (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015).
By Carolina Garcia
Today we will explore Homographs- words that share the same written form but have different meanings and Homonyms- words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings.
Sal: Salt and also the verb to get out (salir)
Sal de ahi – Get out of there
Calle: Street and also the conjugation of the word to silence (callar)
Callete – Shut up
Nada: Nothing and also the conjugation of the verb to swim.
No es nada – it’s nothing
Haya – the verb ‘haber’- to have
Halla – the verb ‘hallar’- to find
Aya – nanny or governess
Hola – hello
Ola – wave
Hierba – herb
Hierva – conjugated verb of hervir- to boil
Ciento – hundred
Siento – I feel
Bienes – property
Vienes – conjugated form of venir- to come
By Kary Vannice
Humans have always been fascinated by the concept of time. Scientists study it, philosophers contemplate it, artists try to depict it, and directors make movies about it. Here are eight mind-bending movies that explore different facets of our understanding of time.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) explores the “many-worlds” theory that proposes that every life choice creates an alternative timeline, thus creating many parallel universes. Martial arts action star Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner who discovers she can move between these parallel timelines and tap into the talents and skills of her alternative selves. Because of her special abilities, she is tasked with saving the entire multiverse from eventual doom by a version of her daughter, who has evolved on a different timeline. As she enters different versions of herself, Evelyn can see how different life choices on other timelines lead to different outcomes in her personal relationships, prosperity, and even her personality. If you’ve thought about what your life might have been like had you made a different choice at a crux moment, this movie will fuel your imagination!
The Jacket (2005) also focuses on the idea of timeline jumping. However, it sticks to one universe and has the main character, Jack Starks, played by Adrian Brody, jumping between past and future in a fractured and frantic attempt to save his own life. After returning home from the first Gulf War, Starks is wrongfully accused of killing a police officer and, because of his claims of innocence, is sent to a mental institution. While incarcerated, he is forced to undergo brutal sensory deprivation treatments inside a morgue drawer after being bound in a straightjacket and injected with experimental drugs.
Over the course of these terror-inducing “treatments,” Jack’s mind fractures as he desperately tries to ground himself in memories of the past, one memory in particular, that of a young girl he helped shortly before he was institutionalized. His attachment to the memory is so strong he “jumps” to 15 years in the future and finds her where she tells him of his death a few months later. With each new treatment, Jack jumps from future to past, convincing key people of future events and persuading them to make different decisions to change the outcome of their future lives, all the while trying to figure out how to use his time-traveling abilities to change his own future and save his own life. At the film’s end, however, one wonders if Jack was truly traveling timelines or if it was simply his tortured consciousness creating comfort where his body could find none.
Somewhere in Time (1980) may have you questioning whether time is just a mental construct and whether one can time-travel through autosuggestion alone. The stars of this romantic drama, Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, are separated by nearly 70 years of time and space, but that doesn’t stop the pull and passion of true love. After falling in love with the photo of a turn-of-the-century actress, Christopher Reeve’s character learns how to self-hypnotize so he can travel back in time to find a woman he swears he had a brief encounter with eight years before, when she was in her 80s. Convinced she is the same woman as the one in the photo, he uses tape-recorded suggestions to hypnotize himself back to 1912, he finds his love and embarks on a mission to convince her they are meant to be together and, in fact, have been before, or will be, depending on whose timeline you’re working from. She’s eventually convinced and allows herself to fall in love with him, only to be robbed of him when a 1979 penny he finds in his pocket breaks his hypnotic suggestion and sends him back to his own time. But don’t worry, as classic romance movies of this time almost always do, the story eventually brings these two lovers back together again in the afterlife.
I Origins (2014) plays on the idea that the afterlife is just another life, and another, and another, and that we carry one unique characteristic with us into each new incarnation, the irises of our eyes. The movie begins with a Ph.D. student who’s researching the evolution of the eye at a costume party where he meets a masked woman, Sofi, with unique and beautiful eyes. At the end of the night, she abruptly leaves, and all he is left with is the memory of the irises of her eyes. Fate, however, leads him to her again one day on the train. They begin a passionate, albeit tumultuous, love affair, which ends tragically with her death not long after. Seven years later, when his first child is born, he discovers that his son has the same iris signature as a man who had recently died in Idaho. Spurred by the hope that this could connect him to lost loved ones, he runs a scan of Sofi’s eyes. He finds a match in India, but the records are for an orphan girl with no known address. He goes to India and spends weeks searching and putting up billboards with photos of Sofi’s eyes, hoping to reconnect with the memories of his past love.
In Time (2011) takes place in a future where the currency is time. Everyone on the planet stops aging at 25 years old. From that point on, they must earn time to stay alive. They must also spend time to stay alive. Time is used to buy food, take the bus, even have a beer. Most people live day to day, earning just enough time to stay alive until tomorrow. But there are wealthy businessmen who bank time and live for decades, centuries even, in luxury.
In the ghetto, people steal time, trade for time, and even kill for time. Will, a lowly factory worker played by Justin Timberlake, has a chance encounter with one such “wealthy” man who is tired of living but has over 100 years left on his “clock,” which is digitally displayed on his forearm. The man gives Will all but 5 minutes of his time and “times out,” making Will a target but also emboldening him to take time back from the immortals and give it to the common man. This movie is a fast-paced Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood, and will have you thinking of the term “time is money” in a whole new way.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021) is a new take on the old Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day (1993). Mark, a teenage boy, is stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again. After many iterations of the same day, Mark can anticipate the movements and actions of others and begins to help them in in tiny, subtle ways, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. One day, however, he meets a girl, Margaret, who also seems to be living the same loop. Mark and Margaret live endless days together, sharing their dreams and hopes for the future, but the future never comes. Each day is the same as the last, and Margaret frequently and frustratingly disappears after receiving mysterious text messages, leaving Mark wondering what part she’s playing in the loop. Mark eventually discovers where Margaret’s disappearing to, and that there are some things worth living the same day over and over for, and that not all futures are full of hope. Some are full of heartache.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) is the warning on a classified ad placed by a grocery store clerk looking for someone to travel back in time with him. The ad also reads, “This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before.” A Seattle Magazine reporter and two interns, each with an ulterior motive of their own, set out to find the man who placed the ad and find out if he truly believes he can travel through time. This movie is less about time travel and more about the exploration of regret, making plans to right wrongs that happened in the past, and how pain can cause us to rewrite our history to alleviate our current suffering.
Primer (2004) is a little-known, low-budget film that depicts what developing time travel might look like if one applied the laws of physics to everyday objects as a “side project” to a regular 9 to 5 suburban job. You’re bored already, aren’t you? Well, you shouldn’t be. This is probably the most realistic movie about how actual time travel might come about, as well as what humans might do with the power to travel back in time. Written and directed by Shane Carruth, a former engineer with a degree in mathematics, who also stars, this film doesn’t “dumb it down” and also doesn’t “glam it up.” It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance film festival and has gained a cult following. Its popularity is not so much due to the science behind time travel, but the exploration of how average humans might grapple with the power of being able to alter and manipulate the past, present, and future.
By Jane Bauer
“Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.”
― Lewis Carroll
It is 2023! Is it just me or does it feel like time is moving faster?
As has become our tradition the theme for the first issue of the year follows the Chinese New Year- hence The Rabbit Issue. Past issues have included the chicken, the pig, the rat… you get the idea.
When I was a girl I was very attached to a soft toy Peter Rabbit that I must have gotten very early in life because by the time I was four he was already falling apart. For Christmas my mother told me to write a letter to Santa to ask if he could fix him. I was dubious about this plan but sure enough on Christmas morning Peter Rabbit sat under the tree perfectly put back together wearing a brand new blue jacket.
When I was eight my older sister told me Santa was a fake and she found my old Peter Rabbit tucked away in my mother’s closet. I was sad but not surprised to learn about that Santa wasn’t real and I was thrilled to have now two Peter Rabbits- one more worn than the other.
When I was nine my father and I took the Via Rail from Montreal to Vancouver- staying in fancy sleeper berths. I spent my time putting on magic shows in the bar car for the adults. The original Peter Rabbit accompanied me on this journey and was good company for I didn’t meet many children during the trip. Somewhere between Winnipeg and Saskatoon, amid the flurry of getting off to look around and new people getting on and people getting off, Peter Rabbit and I got separated.
My father notified everyone on the train and made sure we checked every lost and found at every station we passed- on the way to Vancouver and on the way back to Montreal. As a parent myself I am touched by my parents’ actions. My mother for teaching me that if I want something it is always worth asking and to have a little faith that I will get it- this is a skill that has served me well. My father’s real concern for finding Peter Rabbit taught me that the things I love and cherish are of value- even if it is just a stuffed animal. Peter Rabbit never did make it home and I still use my Peter Rabbit plate when I need a little comfort.
As we sprint into a new year it is time to reflect on the imprint we are leaving on those around us. What are the ripple effects of our actions? Let us all be more conscious and mindful as we move forward because you are more powerful than you can imagine… make good use of it.
Happy New Year!
See you in February,
By Randy Jackson
In survival training, there is the Rule of Three’s: You can survive three minutes without air. You can survive three days without water, and you can survive three weeks without food. Air, it seems, is plentiful enough. But knowing we only have a three-day survival window without water should make us all prioritise a clean, dependable, potable water system. In Mexico, as in most places in the world, people depend on the government to provide sufficient potable water for their needs. In Huatulco, the potable water system, built and maintained by FONATUR (the Fondo Nacional de Fomento Turismo, the National Tourism Promotion Fund), is facing the challenge of meeting the growing demands on the water system.
Anyone living in Huatulco, even for part of the year, is well aware of the frequency of water outages. In some sectors, people are without water for several hours every day. Other sectors experience frequent unannounced water outages for multiple days each week. What has mitigated the seriousness of the water delivery problems up to this point is that virtually all residential buildings and hotels have water storage tanks and cisterns that hold three or four days’ worth of water. This mitigation measure can give the appearance of “all is well,” but it seems apparent that the demand for potable water in Huatulco is seriously challenging the capacity of the FONATUR potable water system to provide it.
In my attempt to understand Huatulco’s potable water system, I set out to answer four basic questions.
(1) What area and population does the FONATUR water system serve?
(2) What are the uses of water in Huatulco?
(3) How much potable water is available?
(4) How much potable water is needed?
First, what do we mean by “potable” water? Potable water covers normal household uses. Drinking, cooking, washing, toilets and showers. FONATUR provides “gray” water for irrigating street plantings, but many residents use potable water for lawns and plants. In Huatulco, it also includes the water used in swimming pools.
(1) WHAT AREA AND POPULATION DOES THE FONATUR WATER SYSTEM SERVE?
For a past article in The Eye (January 2022), I noted that the government census showed 25,000 residents in the Tourist Zone of Huatulco, including La Crucecita. This, plus the approximately 7,000 hotel guests here in the high season, means that the FONATUR potable water system is serving approximately 32,000 people. In a 2022 request to fund a water study, FONATUR indicated that this number would rise to 41,000 by 2030.
Other communities within the larger area of the municipality of Santa María Huatulco, which includes the communities of Santa María itself, Copalita, Coyula, and others), all have potable water sources outside of the FONATUR system. The FONATUR water system covers the area from the Copalita River (think La Bocana), westward along the coast covering all the communities and bays along the coast as far as Maguey, and inland to include La Crucecita.
Most of the FONATUR water delivery is by pipe to end use, but in some sectors, like H3, the water is trucked in by FONATUR.
(2) WHAT ARE USES OF WATER IN HUATULCO?
In 2018, FONATUR, under their obligations for transparency, published a presentation on the potable water system for Huatulco. The 2017 consumption data are summarised here:
(3) HOW MUCH POTABLE WATER IS AVAILABLE?
The FONATUR potable water supply comes from eight wells along the Copalita river. The total water extracted from the wells in 2017 was 11 million litres per day. In a recent budget request document (2022), FONATUR reported that their current well production was 15 million litres per day, and stated that the amount was insufficient to meet existing requirements.
A budget of $9.7 million pesos ($500,000 USD) was granted to FONATUR for a pre-investment study in 2023 of locations for new wells, with the goal of bringing the potable water supply up to 21 million litres per day. As this budget is only for well site selection, it is probably safe to assume that any additional potable water for Huatulco is some years away.
For some time now, I have been aware of persistent rumours that some of FONATUR’s potable water wells are impaired or non-functional. By visiting the wells and talking to operations personnel, I can confirm that all eight wells are in operation, and only one well (#8) has a reduced flow rate, roughly 25% lower than the average of the other seven wells. My investigation would confirm that the combined volume of all the wells is about 15 – 16 million litres of water per day.
Of course, the amount produced is not always the amount delivered. As shown in the consumption table above, 14% of the water produced from the wells was lost. Water lost due to leakage is a perennial problem in water delivery systems around the world. The loss rate in Canada and the United States is around 12%. In Mexico overall, the loss rate is thought to be between 20% and 40% as a result of underfunded maintenance of water infrastructure. Here in Huatulco, the reported 14% loss was before the last major earthquake. In just the previous month (December 2022), FONATUR finished replacing a damaged section of mainline pipe near La Bocana. Water lost from leakage is not only from the pipes and tanks used to deliver water to consumers. There are leaks in the water storage cisterns of residential buildings and hotels. Although the loss from private cisterns would not show up in the FONATUR water loss statistics, it would still reduce potable water availability to consumers, requiring even more supply.
One final note on water availability. Stating the obvious, the FONATUR Huatulco water system is dependent on funding. That funding is provided by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). In 2022, Huatulco was allocated $250 million Pesos ($12 million USD) to improve deteriorated infrastructure, including water.
For 2023, the PPEF (El Proyecto de Presupuesto de Egresos de la Federación , basically the Budget of Expenses project) has announced their proposed funding for the tourism sector as follows:
*Ixtapa (Guerrero), Huatulco (Oaxaca), Bahía de Banderas (Nayarit), Los Cabos and Loreto (Baja California Sur), Pacific Coast (Sinaloa), Cancun and Cozumel (Quintana Roo)
The 2023 appropriation for the Mayan Train is $8.7 billion USD. A Bloomberg news story from July 2022 reported the total cost to Mexico to complete the Mayan Train could reach $20 Billion USD.
(4) HOW MUCH POTABLE WATER IS NEEDED?
Water systems around the world are sized in accordance with the formula:
Population times average water use/person/day = Volume of water needed per day
The volume of water per person varies in different countries and regions. The international OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has collected data on the per capita use of potable water. The United States leads the world in consumption at 380 litres/person/day, Canada is at 335, Italy 250, and Sweden at 200 litres/person/day. I found only one reference on comparable water use in Mexico, and that was for Mexico City, which uses 200 litres/person/day.
To figure out Huatulco’s per-person use of water, I used the Huatulco water consumption by category table above. If residential users consume 34% of the supply, and the population is about 25,000 people, consumption would come to 154 litres/person/day. Per person use by hotels, 28% of consumption, is substantially higher. Depending on occupancy rate, hotels use between 450 and 900 litres/person/day.
I’m still, however, trying to answer this question: How much potable water is NEEDED? The full answer to this question would depend on what “need” means. Or better still, do we need all the water we use? So let me throw out one more number. The World Health Organization suggests the minimum per person requirement for water use is 30 litres per day (for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene and laundry). As we all use way more than that, it is an open question as to how much even modest conservation efforts might reduce the demand on the Huatulco water system.
Although water conservation could be an important part of the solution to Huatulco water shortage problems, conservation of a shared resource never seems to happen voluntarily. So Huatulco-ites should expect to see their water bills continue to rise, and water outages to keep on keeping on.
Randy Jackson email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kary Vannice
Elsewhere in this issue, Randy Jackson’s article, “Huatulco’s Water System: In Survival Mode?” makes a very compelling case for residents of Huatulco to become more conscientious about their water consumption. As residents living within the FONATUR potable water system, each individual consumer plays a vital role in the state of Huatulco’s current and future water situation.
If you’ve experienced some of the water shortages that Randy reported on, instead of pointing the finger at commercial users, real estate developers, or the people living in other sectors, which does nothing to improve the situation, take empowered action. Evaluate your own daily water use and choose to reduce your consumption where you can. Lead by example and demonstrate to others how we all can pitch in and make a difference, in both big and small ways. Every drop counts!
Even if you’re already taking small steps to conserve water in your home, such as shutting the water off when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your hands, there are more but lesser-known ways you can contribute to community water saving efforts. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some examples on how you can adapt your household and your lifestyle to be less water consumptive.
In the bathroom:
· Check your toilet for leaks. This is easily done. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank and wait to see if the dye shows up in the bowl without being flushed. Toilet leaks can waste up to 100 gallons of water per day!
· Put a plastic bottle filled with sand and water in your toilet tank to displace some of the water so it uses less with each flush.
· Time your showers. A fun way to do this is to listen to music as you bathe. Allow yourself one or two songs to get your body clean and then turn the water off and get out!
· Consider taking only cold showers. Not only has this been proven to be better for your overall health, but it will also deter you from languishing in the shower.
In the kitchen and utility room:
· Today, dishwashers consume less water than hand washing, but most users still rinse every single dish before putting it into the dishwasher. Most modern dishwashers don’t require this. Only pre-rinse a dish if it still has enough food on it to make your pet happy!
· Don’t leave the faucet on when cleaning vegetables. Fill the sink or a large tub and soak all the vegetables at once.
· Store a jug of water in the fridge instead of running the tap to let the water get cold before filling your glass.
· Wait to run your washing machine or dish washer until you have a full load. If your machine has an “eco” mode, use it!
· Instead of pouring half full glasses of water or left-over ice cubes down the drain, pour them into one of your house plants instead.
Around the house:
· Get out your broom! Instead of using the hose and excessive amount of water to clean off your driveway, sidewalk or deck space, use a broom instead. And, on the rare occasion when you do use your hose to clean outdoor space, be sure to attach a squeeze nozzle, so that when not in use, you’re not wasting water.
· Water outdoor plants either very early in the morning or in the evening. Less of the water will evaporate into the atmosphere.
· Select plants and landscaping vegetation that don’t require excessive amounts of water.
· Consider finding a way to reuse the water your AC pulls from the air. Because the water is fresh water, it can be diverted to water outdoor vegetation or be captured and used for cleaning.
Lifestyle changes that will help with global water conservation:
· Adopt meatless Monday. The commercial meat production industry consumes a tremendous amount of water. Some statistics claim you could save 133 gallons of water with each meatless meal!
· Invest in reusable water bottles and take them with you when you head out to enjoy the beach or the surrounding area. On average, it requires twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount contained in the bottle.
· Extend the lifecycle of your products. Nearly every product you buy requires water to produce or transport. Try to buy fewer single-use products and more products that last. And when you decide that product is no longer useful to you, consider donating it or recycling it instead of sending it to the landfill.
By Brooke O’Connor
My father told me the moon was made of cheese when I was a child.
“See all the holes?” he asked, and I believed him.
Why was the moon made of cheese? He couldn’t answer that, but I wondered if the moon tasted anything like my ham and cheese sandwich on a warm day.
Later, I was told there was a man’s face on the moon. He looked down on the children of the world to see if they were behaving properly and reported to the parents if any mischief was at hand. It was a bit creepy, but my best friend assured me it was only a way for parents to instill fear in us.
The Agricultural Moon
Ancient cultures studied the moon and its cycles, and people were more in tune with those cycles than we are today. Planting under a certain moon cycle could grow stronger crops. Harvesting under a certain moon cycle would yield better-tasting produce.
These practices are being revived. I worked with an organic chamomile farm that harvested on the night of a full moon. Laboratory tests showed the highest level of azulenes (a blue chemical used as an anti-inflammatory and emollient) were available from 11 pm to 1 am on full moons. Their chamomile essential oils were so potent, they were only used for medical purposes. One drop would stain your hand for a few days.
Here in Mexico, the traditional milpa method of gardening – small, intercropped plots typically growing corn, climbing beans, and vining squash –is still in use today and uses the moon cycles to maximize production.
As any gardener knows, one of the essential parts of gardening is factoring in the fauna, and rabbits are omnipresent in that ecosystem. In fact, rabbits have been a food source for humans and other animals for many millennia.
The Moon of Mexican Legends
So how did the Aztecs decide there was a rabbit on the moon?
Let me tell you …
As many good stories start, this one started long ago and began with a god. Quetzalcóatl is related to the gods of the wind, of the dawn, of merchants, of arts, crafts, and knowledge. He was also the patron god of the Aztec priesthood, and of learning and knowledge. Quetzalcoatl was one of several important gods in the Aztec pantheon and is known as the Precious Serpent or Feathered Serpent.
One day, shortly after Mexico was created, Quetzalcóatl was curious to see this beautiful land and transformed himself into human form to walk around and explore. He was amazed at the exquisite variety of trees, flowers, and terrain he found. He walked far and wide. The sun was hot, the day was long, and he became tired. As the moon rose, and the stars started to twinkle, he realized he was hungry and started searching for food.
As Quetzalcóatl looked for food, he tripped over a rabbit.
“Who are you and what are you eating? I am hungry and looking for food.” The god said.
“I’m just a little rabbit, and I eat grass. I will gladly pick grass for you to eat because I see you are a great god,” the rabbit said.
“I will die of starvation if I eat grass. There must be something else.” Quetzalcóatl said.
The rabbit replied, “Very well, I will offer myself to you as a sacrifice. Eat me and you will have the energy to continue your journey.” =
“You are very brave for such a small creature!” Quetzalcóatl said.
“I am here to serve you.” The rabbit said.
Quetzalcóatl was touched by the courage and dedication of the rabbit. He picked him up and caressed the soft fur. Then, instead of eating him, he held the rabbit up to the moon and imprinted the rabbit’s silhouette. The rabbit would forever be known for his good heart and sacrificial attitude.
This is why the Aztecs say there is a rabbit on the moon.
It’s interesting to note that the Chinese and Japanese also have myths about the rabbit on the moon. The Japanese story talks about a god disguised as an old man who wanders in the forest for food. A monkey offers some stolen fish and a fox offers some nuts, but the rabbit has nothing to offer but grass. The rabbit then offers himself to the old man, and the god reveals himself, then gives the rabbit eternal life on the moon.
I always scratch my head when myths of different cultures collide, particularly when they are so specific but geographically distant. What does it mean? Could there really be a rabbit on the moon?
I doubt it, but there’s definitely a connection in human history yet to be discovered.