By Deborah Van Hoewyk
A long time ago, in an asteroid belt – or maybe a comet cloud – but definitely far far away … a “space rock” escaped its orbit and slammed into Earth. It was the end of an era.
An Astronomical Event
A long time would be 66 million years ago (mya), apparently on a day in the northern-hemisphere spring. The impact marked the end of a geological period called the Cretaceous, which ran from 145 to 66 mya). The Cretaceous followed the Triassic (237- 201 mya) and Jurassic (201-145 mya); these three periods comprise the Mesozoic Era, or the age of dinosaurs. The dinosaurs, except for those that could fly, were pretty much instantaneously over as well.
There is not yet agreement on whether the “space rock,” 9.6 km (±6 miles) in diameter, was an asteroid, basically a giant rock, or a comet, made of ice, rock, and dust. Whether it came from the asteroid belt, a donut-shaped collection of debris left over from when the planets of our solar system were formed, or from one or another of the more distant debris clouds that generate comets, doesn’t really seem to matter. Either way, Jupiter got into the act and set the space rock on course for a place named Chicxulub (chicks-oo-loob) on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.
What did Jupiter do? Exerted gravity. Jupiter is about 318 times the mass of Earth, and its gravitational pull is about 2.4 times that of Earth. As astrophysicist Amir Siraj, a student at Harvard when he did his research on the “Chicxulub Impactor,” explains, “the solar system acts as a kind of pinball machine,” and “Jupiter, the most massive planet, kicks incoming long-period comets into orbits that bring them very close to the Sun.” The complicated interaction of these “sun grazer” comets with solar tidal forces makes them smaller and faster, and increases the chance they’re headed straight for earth.
What Happened the Day the Dinosaurs Died?
About a thousand species of dinosaurs inhabited the earth. From ancestors to extinction, they lasted about 230 million years, with the age of recognizable dinosaurs running for about 165 million years. They originated when the earth had a single land mass, called Pangaea; as Pangaea split into areas we now know as the seven continents, the dinosaurs went along for the ride on most of them.
Mexico hosted a range of dinosaurs, with most fossilized remains coming from northern Baja California and Coahuila. There were horned dinosaurs like the Cohuilaceratops, 4 meters (±13 feet) long and weighing just over a ton – but its horns were 1.2 meters (±4 feet) long. There were some of the largest duckbilled hadrosaurs – remains of Tlatolophus galorum were just unearthed in Coahuila, as well as smaller duck-bills like Velafrons and Latirhinus. Tlatolophus was 8-12 meters (26-39 feet) long, weighing in at about 3.6 tons. There were the “apex predators,” the tyrranosaurs, who preyed on the hadrosaurs; Mexico’s best-known tyrranosaur was the medium-sized Labocania, only 7 meters (23 feet) long and weighing in at a ton and half.
Mexico’s dinosaurs were the first to go when the Chicxulub Impactor hit the tip of the Yucatán peninsula with the equivalent of a 100-million megaton blast – 60,000 times the energy of all the nuclear weapons now in existence – hollowing out a crater ±150 km (90 miles) wide.
The impact generated a core of super-heated – over 10,000 degrees – plasma, i.e., matter that has reached a fourth state, beyond solid, liquid, and gas, basically a gas “soup” of charged ions (positive) and electrons (negative).
This thermal pulse lasted for only a few minutes, but it sent out an air blast, a shockwave of air pressure that created winds well over 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) per hour. The air blast radiated across the seas, sending raging wildfires through ancient forests and bringing tsunamis with waves 100-300 meters (±330-990 feet) over the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico.
The impact also produced a seismic pulse equal to a magnitude 10 earthquake, causing landslides on the sea floor, which was already deeply eroded by the backwash from the tsunamis. The seismic pulse radiated far from Chicxulub, with tremors gathering surface water and pushing it up the Western Interior Seaway, an inland sea that split what is now the United States in two.
All terrestrial flora and fauna, along with marine life, within a 1,500-1,800 km (900-1008 miles) radius was roasted or buried alive. And all of this occurred before any debris ejected from the crater could fall back to earth. Within minutes, however, the debris – mostly rocky rubble and “ejecta spherules” (tiny glass beads called tektites, composed of melted rock and dust) – began falling over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, covering the end of the Yucatán Peninsula and the adjacent sea floor several hundred meters (±800 feet) deep; 350-600 kilometers (210-360 miles) away in Campeche, at the base of the Yucatán, the ejected debris was 50-300 meters (165 to 980 feet) thick.
Chicxulub and Mass Extinction
The gas, dust, and “geologic shrapnel” flung up by the Chicxulub impact did far more than fall to earth in Mexico. It followed global air currents to create an “impact winter,” in which the entire earth was plunged into darkness and freezing cold as the ejected material circled the globe and blocked out the sun. It was a winter that lasted three years. Hot fragments set off wildfires around the world. Acid rain poured down. Plants died. Animals that ate plants died. Animals that ate the animals that ate the plants died. In what is now called the “Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event (K-Pg),” three-quarters of all species then on earth – including and especially the dinosaurs – went extinct.
Not everyone agrees that Chicxulub is the whole story. After studying over a thousand dinosaur-egg fragments, Chinese scientists have argued that in the two million years before K-Pg, dinosaur diversity was dropping. They conclude that the “end-Cretaceous catastrophic events [saliently massive volcanic eruptions in India that would also have caused climate change] probably acted on an already vulnerable ecosystem and led to nonavian dinosaur extinction.”
There were survivors. Some of the avian dinosaurs, ancestors of today’s birds (not the pterosaurs, though, pterodactyls were actually flying reptiles); early small mammals that lived in burrows; small amphibians like frogs and salamanders; and reptiles – snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, turtles – made it through.
Researchers in evolutionary biology at Cornell University have been studying the ancestors of primates (that’s us!) and marsupials (kangaroos and possums). Before the K-Pg extinction, these mammals had been arboreal, living their entire lives in the trees, not a good place to be as incredibly high temperatures sent wildfires tearing through forests. Right around the time of the impact, however, these mammals were making an evolutionary transition out of the trees and a few survived.
It should be noted that we are now in the “Holocene Extinction,” in which human activity – increasing population, overconsumption, and pollution – threatens the extinction of over a million species in the next ten years; the World Wildlife Fund calls it the “largest mass extinction event since the end of the dinosaur age.”
How Do We Know All This?
You could spend time struggling through academic analyses to gather all this information, but there’s an easier way. David Attenborough, the British dean of natural history documentaries, has just released his latest work, a 90-minute film titled Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough (premiered April 15, 2022, on the BBC; in the U.S., May 11, 2022, as a two-part special, Dinosaur Apocalypse, on the PBS show Nova).
The documentary shows Attenborough walking with dinosaurs as the Chicxulub impactor is gathering speed in space (the dinosaurs were created by the animators of The Lion King and The Jungle Book). Surprisingly, the documentary starts out not in Mexico but in Hell Creek, North Dakota, about 3000 km (1800 miles) from Chicxulub. Attenborough spent three years with the researchers at the Tanis dig, and devotes most of the documentary to exploring their findings.
The key? The “K-Pg boundary,” a sharp demarcation between life before, during, and after the impact. At the actual boundary there is a concentration of iridium, a hard, iridescent mineral rare on earth but known to occur in meteorites (meteors are “space rocks” once they have entered Earth’s atmosphere, and meteorites are the post-impact remains of the meteors). In 2016, a group of international marine scientists drilled a thousand feet into the edge of the Chicxulub crater about 30 km (18 miles) northwest of Progreso, Yucatán, extracting a core sample that showed iridium at the point of impact.
The Tanis dig shows this even more clearly. British paleontologist Robert DePalma, working with an international team, found large, astonishingly well-preserved fossils below and in a crumbly layer of rock full of the ejecta spherules. Fossils from the Tanis dig are so well preserved because the post-impact inundation of watery mud engulfed living creatures, preserving them much as volcanic lava preserved the victims at Pompeii in the year 79 CE.
Among these fossils are saltwater fish, obviously not native to North Dakota, with gills full of spherules chemically identical to ones found at Chicxulub, indicating that the fish came with the water that rushed from the Gulf of Mexico up the Western Interior Seaway. It is thought that the spherules may have taken as little as 13 minutes after impact in Mexico to fall in Hell Creek.
Chicxulub and the Future
Will Chicxulub happen again? Probably. But definitely not in our lifetime. Amir Siraj, who identified the sun-grazer comets, has determined that, even though the chances of a similar impact are 10 times greater than previously thought, it’s only projected to occur every 250-730 million years.
In the meantime, Chicxulub has lessons for the future. The crater was open on its northeast side to the Gulf of Mexico, allowing nutrient-rich water to circulate in the crater. Life started up very quickly in the form of microscopic marine life, perhaps within 200 years. A consortium of scientists who study the return of life to Chicxulub say it offers lessons for restoring the oceans, threatened today by oxygen deletion, ocean acidification, and rising temperatures. According to Christopher M. Lowery, of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas (Austin), Chicxulub “might be an important analog for the recovery of biodiversity after we finally curtail carbon dioxide emissions and pollution.”
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
This hour and nine-minute-long passion project filmed and produced by locals José María Arias Méndez and Jesús López Aguilar is an audiovisual journey through the wetlands of the Central Coast of Oaxaca. Their intention was to create this film as a testimony of the local biodiversity, human processes, and challenges of living in a Natural Sanctuary.
Huatulco’s unique ecosystem is a sanctuary for the conservation of life, the evidence of this is alive in its natural biodiversity and cultural expressions: beaches, rivers, jungles, reefs, gastronomy, music, dances, festivities, quality of life, economic opportunities, healthy environment and sightseeing.
What are the origins of this natural paradise and what actions we must undertake to preserve our quality of life here? These are the questions that this trip through the Huatulco’s wetlands and social developments strives to answer. Massive tracts of jungle, mangrove forests, dunes, springs, rivers, reefs and transition ecosystems, make up a picturesque and aesthetic walk through the contrasting climates of 10 micro-watersheds that cross the municipalities of: Todos Santos, Cuajinicuil, Arroyo Xúchitl, Cacaluta, Chahué , Tangolunda, Coyula, Aguaje de Cocos, Arenal and Chachacual.
“Huatulco: Biosphere Reserve. Basins and Corals of the South Pacific” provides a window through which we, as humanity, can view and contemplate our role in this diverse ecosystem.
- BIODIVERSITY: An exploration of the characteristics and bio-environmental conditions in the region.
- ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Benefits that nature provides to humans and its impact on the lives of Huatulqueños.
- CYCLES OF NATURE: Macro and micro environmental dynamics of the basins of the Sierra Sur and the Coast of Oaxaca
- RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION: A call to become aware of our energy expenditure and resources consumption as local residents.
- HUATULQUEÑO COROLLARY: List of recommendations to prevent the most recurrent environmental damage taking place on the coast, in tourist and community spaces.
The film will be shown with English subtitles and all proceeds will be used to fund a grassroots effort to show the film throughout rural areas to raise awareness of human impacts on the local ecosystem and biodiversity.
Residents of Huatulco who wish to play a role in the preservation of our “jewel of paradise” here on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca, will want to support this local effort to educate people on the best ways to protect the unique and special biodiversity of our region. Keep a watchful eye on the local social media groups and pages as the premier of this film approaches so you don’t miss out!
By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
One of the remarkably innovative activities that sets humans apart from our closest primate relatives is cooking our food and flavoring it with spices. According to some anthropologists, this behavior may have emerged while we were still nomadic hunters and gathers. To carry a kill to the next temporary home site, our ancestors probably wrapped the meat in leaves – and a distant relative with a fine palate realized that the meat wrapped in some leaves lasted longer and was tastier than meat wrapped in others. The former leaves became desirable and assigned a higher trading value than others. Similarly, specific flavorful roots, bulbs, berries, flowers and even pollen became prized first as enhancements for cooking and preserving and, after observation of beneficial effects, medicating.
Once humans settled down in farms, towns, and cities and developed writing and reading, one of the first uses of these newly emerged forms of communication was accounting in long-extinct languages for amounts of spices traded. Recipes using spices for preservation, including mummification, were shared; thyme was used as an ingredient over 5500 years ago in Egyptian unguents that were used to prepare bodies for the afterlife. As writing became a method of expressing religious beliefs and poetic expressions, literature produced millennia ago equated thyme and other spices with love, riches and the best of human life. The incredibly beautiful Song of Songs in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) mentions many spices including cinnamon and saffron.
The Song of Songs is said to have been written in the 9th century BCE, so we have evidence from that time period of the availability in the land of Israel of cinnamon native to Sri Lanka and India, and saffron from Crete, which must have made their way via the ships of ancient mariners to the Middle East. In fact, literature from China and other accounts from around Eurasia provide evidence that spices growing wild millennia ago in various parts of the known world were harvested and sold or bartered in distant lands. When given root in favorable climates far from their origin, they were cultivated and harvested for local use or became a currency of exchange.
There is also archeological evidence that in the Western hemisphere, including Mesoamerica, different species of plants from those in Eurasia were also harvested in the wild and began to be cultivated. Like the use of spices across the oceans, they were used to flavor foods, for preservation, including mummification, and for medicinal purposes. It is not surprising, then, that many millennia later, during the Age of Exploration and the Spanish invasion of Mexico and South America, one of the earliest cultural exchanges consisted of adopting Western spices in Europe and Eurasian spices in the New World.
The Spanish conquistadores were accustomed to a diet flavored with garlic, onions and, for the most wealthy, saffron. Imagine their surprise when neither garlic, large onions, nor crocus producing saffron were to be found to be growing in “New Spain,” and the small scallion-like onions were a far cry from the plump sweet vegetable growing in the Mediterranean. Instead, they found a plethora of other spices being used by indigenous civilizations. A wide variety of peppers unheard of in the Old World – ranging from sweet to extremely hot and spicy – were dried and ground and added to many dishes. Cacao, a new and addictive chocolate-tasting fruit, was used to flavor both food and drink. Tomatoes, which originated in the Andes in South America, had been brought north and were cultivated and formed the basis for many different salsas. Anise seeds added a depth to dishes and achiote seeds were “discovered” to impart a distinct flavor and an attractive deep red color to food. Herbs and flowers added while cooking included chipilin, epazote, mint, and pre-Columbian coriander (different from modern day cilantro), each contributing a delicious taste to a diet which, mainly prepared with corn, squash, and beans, could have been quite bland.
To the great delight of those living in Eurasia, tomato seeds were brought from the New World and cultivated in many parts of those continents. Today many Europeans would deny that tomatoes are not native to their countries and would claim they had always been part of their heritage. Similarly, European peppers were primarily sweet peppers, but, learning from their Mesoamerican hosts, Spanish cooks began drying and smoking a large sweet variety of red pepper and then grinding the peppers, producing what is today called Spanish paprika. And of course, chocolate produced from cacao became associated with countries far from the trees that bear the flavorful fruit (think of Switzerland).
In turn, 16th-century colonists began cultivating spices in the lands of the New World that had never grown there. Mexican thyme, which originated in Africa long before the Spanish invasion, was introduced. Cumin, originally cultivated in the Middle East, was introduced and became so ubiquitous that it almost seems synonymous with Mexican cooking – especially in US chain quasi-Mexican restaurants where it tends to be overused. Garlic and large white onions are staples in Mexican grocery stores and kitchens, although relatives of the original scallion-like onions are more flavorful and also still used.
While some of the exotic spices from distant lands could be grown in countries that took a liking to them, other plants have difficulty thriving outside their native land. Over a period of centuries, the spice trade became a highly lucrative enterprise and was dominated by large companies, such as the British East India Company, which was founded at the end of 1600 and continued to exercise a monopoly on some markets for 274 years. Around the time the Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, folded, two brothers named Schilling, who had immigrated from Germany to San Francisco formed their own spice company. Shortly thereafter, Willoughby McCormick founded his spice company in Baltimore. McCormick bought out the Schilling brothers’ company in 1946. Today, McCormick is still a dominant force in the field, employing 10,000 people and selling $3.5 billion of spices annually.
As with other markets in the 21st century, spice production is global. However, the country that dominates spice production is India, providing almost 11 million tons between 2021 and 2022. We took a walk down a road in the Southern State of Kerala that was lined with shops displaying heaps of ginger and burlap bags of other spices; it was such a heady experience that we will never forget being there. India is such a prolific producer that Mexico actually imports red peppers from that part of the world. Other countries specialize in individual herbs and spices; cinnamon, so ubiquitous in Mexican cooking and baking, is often a product of Sri Lanka. But Mexico has to a small degree turned the tables; nutmeg, originally from the Banda Islands in Indonesia, is now grown in Mexico and exported primarily to the U.S. And although thyme can be grown in most places in the world, China is the world’s leading producer.
As humans emerged from hunter-gatherer groups and small agricultural units to span the globe and conquer time and space, so did thyme and other herbs and spices we so love. Perhaps when humans colonize other planets, thyme and spices will be among the first possessions brought across time and space.
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 Brooke O’Connor
When I started researching the concept of time in the Zapotec culture versus the idea of time today, there were many changes happening in the world – one of which is the first public availability of AI, or artificial intelligence. New technologies will change the fabric of how we live our lives, as well as our perception of time.
We’ve probably all experienced an AI “chatbot” – the online conversations that you have when you want to “talk” some kind of customer service. Lately, these text-generating chatbots have moved on to writing entire essays. So … just for fun, I typed my topic into ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot released in November 2022 by Open AI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research laboratory. This is what came out.
The Zapotec culture, indigenous to the southern state of Oaxaca in Mexico, has a unique and complex understanding of time. The Zapotecs have long held a cyclical view of time, in which the past, present, and future are interwoven and constantly influencing one another. This view is deeply ingrained in their daily lives, religious practices, and social structure.
One aspect of the Zapotec perception of time is the belief in the power of ancestors. For the Zapotecs, the spirits of their ancestors continue to play an active role in the present and are often called upon for guidance and protection. This belief is reflected in the Zapotec calendar, which is based on a 260-day cycle, in which the days are named after various deities, natural phenomena, and ancestors. Each day has its own unique characteristics and significance and is believed to be influenced by the spirits of the ancestors associated with it.
The Zapotecs also have a strong connection to the land and their environment. This connection is reflected in their agricultural practices, which are closely tied to the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. The Zapotecs use these astronomical cycles to determine the best time for planting and harvesting crops. For example, the Zapotecs believe that certain days are better for planting certain crops, depending on the phase of the moon.
Another important aspect of the Zapotec perception of time is the concept of “tequio.” Tequio is the Zapotec word for community work or service, which is an integral part of Zapotec culture. Tequio is typically done on a voluntary basis and is done for the benefit of the community as a whole. It can take many forms, such as building a community house, repairing roads, or planting crops. The Zapotecs believe that tequio is necessary to maintain balance and harmony in the community and that it helps keep the ancestors’ spirits happy.
Religion also plays a big role in the Zapotec perception of time. In Zapotec culture, gods and goddesses are believed to have a significant impact on the perception of time. They are seen as the creators and guardians of time and are responsible for the cycles of the seasons and the passage of days and nights. These deities are also associated with the passage of time in the human life cycle, such as birth, adulthood, and death. For example, the god Xipe Tótec is associated with the planting and growth of crops, and rituals are performed in his honor at the beginning of the agricultural cycle to ensure a bountiful harvest. Similarly, the goddess Cocijo is associated with the rainy season, and rituals are performed to ensure that the rains come at the appropriate time for the crops.
Additionally, the gods and goddesses are also associated with different stages in the human life cycle, such as birth, adulthood, and death. For example, the god of childbirth, Pitao Cozobi, is invoked to ensure a safe delivery, and the goddess of death, Xoxo, is honored to ensure a peaceful transition to the afterlife.
One of the most important ceremonies is the Guelawe, a celebration of the dead that takes place annually, usually in November. During this ceremony, the Zapotecs believe that the spirits of the dead return to the living world to visit their descendants. The Zapotecs believe that the spirits of the dead have the power to influence the lives of the living and that it is important to keep them happy through rituals and offerings.
However, it’s worth mentioning that Zapotec culture is diverse and there are variations between different regions and even towns. There are many different practices, beliefs, and expressions of their culture. Also, the Zapotec culture has been in constant change over the centuries and is still adapting to the present day, thus, this article presents a general view of the Zapotec culture’s perception of time.
In modern times, the perception of time has been largely shaped by advances in science and technology. The invention of the clock in the 14th century revolutionized the way time was measured and perceived. The development of mechanical clocks, and later quartz and atomic clocks, made it possible to measure time with an unprecedented level of accuracy. The widespread use of clocks and watches has also led to the standardization of time across the world, with time zones being established to account for variations in longitude.
In physics, time is not an absolute but relative to the observer, and in theories such as special and general relativity show that the perception of time can change depending on the observer’s velocity and gravitational field.
In modern Western cultures, time is often perceived as a scarce and valuable resource. People are constantly racing against the clock, trying to fit more activities into each day. This has led to the development of time management techniques and tools to help people make the most of their time.
In conclusion, the perception of time has evolved throughout history and across cultures. The Zapotec culture had a complex understanding of time that was closely linked to their religious beliefs, while in modern Western cultures time is often perceived as a scarce and valuable resource. Advances in science and technology have played a significant role in shaping our current understanding and perception of time.
Note: I had to fix some grammatical errors, but then, when I asked how I should tell people this article was written, it responded, “This article was crafted by the deft hand of artificial intelligence.”
One thing is clear in our modern age; time stands still for no one, and if we don’t progress along with the technology we will be left behind.
By Julie Etra
Where we live, in Reno, Nevada, we consider rabbits a nuisance. (Nevada, by the way, means snow-covered, and the Sierra Nevada are snow-covered mountains – certainly so in December 2022). Rabbits eat a lot of grass and they reproduce rapidly and frequently. They deposit concentrated calcium from their urine and solid waste right where they forage, further stressing the grasses on which they continue to graze. On the other hand, rabbits are essential food for predators such as coyotes and birds of prey.
In Huatulco, we live in Residenciales Conejos, the subdivision with a symbol of a rabbit at the entrance, located on the Bahia de Conejos. So, I said to myself when we bought the lot, hmmm, bunnies. After 13 years in Res. Conejos, we do see an occasional bunny and/or their sign (pellets), but no hares (liebre, in Spanish) and our small patch of grass is not suffering from their presence.
What makes a rabbit a rabbit? First, they are mammals. In general, they have long ears (this varies considerably), a short tail, long hind legs, and continuously growing sharp incisors. Most species are gray or brown and range in size from 10 to 18 inches (25 to 45 cm) long and weigh 1 to 4 pounds (0.5 to 2 kg). They feed primarily on grasses.
There are four species of rabbits and one hare (a type of jackrabbit) found in the selva seca, or dry jungle, of Mexico (see Julie Etra’s article on the selva seca in Huatulco in the December 2022 issue of The Eye). Two of the rabbits are endemic, one of these is threatened and endangered, and the hare (Lepus flavigularis) is considered very rare.
Rabbits in the Jungle
The bunnies or cottontails found in the selva seca include the common tapeti cottontail (Sylvilagus brasiliensis), also called the Brazilian cottontail or forest cottontail. It is a small- to medium-sized bunny, with an expansive range from Tamaulipas to southern Mexico, through Central America, and as far as central Brazil. It has a small, dark tail, short hind feet and short ears. The tapeti cottontail is nocturnal and solitary
The Mexican cottontail (Sylvilagus cunicularius) is endemic to Mexico and the selva seca. This is the dude or dudette(s) (macho y hembra) we would be lucky to see in Huatulco. It is the largest of the Mexican rabbits. Preferred habitats include temperate, subtropical or tropical dry forests, and pastureland. It is a common bunny and is found from Sinaloa south to the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. It breeds year-round, but particularly in the wet season when there is more quality forage available. Although this bunny is pretty common, it still faces the threats typical for rabbits (and other wildlife), including loss of habitat through land use conversion (grazing, agriculture, urban development), hunting, and predation.
The eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus, is the most common cottontail in North America. Interestingly, it’s not the cottontail that forages on our meadow and lawn in northern Nevada – that’s the mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii). The eastern cottontail has a short lifespan due to high rates of predation by numerous predators, rarely living past the age of two. It issues a creepy scream when injured (as does the mountain cottontail).
Sylvilagus graysoni is endemic to Mexico and is in danger of extinction. Its common name is the Tres Marías cottontail, as it is endemic to the Tres Marías Islands off the coast of Nayarit, where it was previously abundant. It is not found along the selva seca of Oaxaca or other dry tropical forests in Mexico. Given its limited range and occurrence, it only has three known wildlife predators: the Tres Marías racoon (Procyon lotor insularis), a subspecies of the common racoon, and two birds of prey, the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and the crested caracara (Caracara plancus), the latter being common on our coast. The Tres Marías cottontail is also threatened by hunting. Although not a lot is known about their behavior, given the remoteness of the Tres Marías Islands and the low number of predators, the rabbit is purportedly not wary of humans. As with other rabbits in similar habitats, its diet changes from herbaceous vegetation in the rainy season to sticks and bark in the dry months of winter.
The Hares of the Isthmus
Lepus flavigularis is endemic to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, more specifically the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and in fact the common name is the Tehuantepec or tropical jackrabbit. Historically it was found from Salina Cruz in Oaxaca to Tonalá just over the border in Chiapas, but has not been seen that far east in recent years. Currently there are four small populations, all located around the Upper and Lower Lagoons of the Gulf of Tehuantepec – Salina Cruz is the major population center on the Gulf.
This very large-eared (up to 5 in, or12 cm), slender-bodied hare is well adapted to its often arid and hot environment. The large surface area of its ears helps regulate its temperature; the size of the ears enhances its hearing and ability to detect predators. The hind feet are large and well developed, allowing for rapid escape from predators. In general, adults weigh from 7.7 to 8.8 pounds (3.5-4.5 kg), with a body that measures 22-24 inches long (55-60 cm) and a tail 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.5- 9.5 cm) in length. This jackrabbit reaches sexual maturity at six or seven months and is polygamous; they typically reproduce during the rainy season when there is an abundance of forage. After around 32 days of gestation, the mother hare gives birth to one to four kits.
The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is crepuscular, meaning active at dusk, and nocturnal when the ambient temperature drops. Habitat and diet are grasslands, where they prefer to forage native rather than introduced grasses. Threats to this species are typical for many species of wildlife: habitat loss due to urban encroachment and agriculture; introduction of non-native species, particularly annual grasses; hunting; and predation by coyotes and foxes. For more detail check out the following link: https://www.lifeder.com/liebre-de-tehuantepec/.
Since their primary diet in the rainy season is grasses, why is Bugs Bunny always munching on a carrot? What’s up with that, doc?
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: email@example.com