Tag Archives: writer

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

I love books. I can easily conjure up the memory of the feel of the carpet at the Children’s Library where I sat for hours as a girl. A few years ago I started keeping track of my reading and I average about forty-five books a year.

“How do you read so many books?” I have been asked. The secret is that I am rarely without a book at hand. Sitting in the car while gas is being pumped, lines at the bank, waiting for a friend in a restaurant – these are all slivers of opportunity to slip into another world.

If you have been to my restaurant on Christmas Eve you know how much I love books. For many years we have gifted each guest a random book. Inspired by the Icelandic tradition Jolabokaflod (Christman book flood), I like to tell people that they will get the book that is meant for them.

While I have lived in Mexico for more than half my life, I am a little disappointed to tell you that I haven’t read that many Mexican writers, but this issue is so full of fascinating writers that I can’t wait to read. I have read some Mexican writers and here are a few of my favorite books that aren’t mentioned in this issue.

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli (2019)
The story of a woman, her husband and two children traveling from New York to Arizona. Touching upon the horrors of children being separated from their parents while searching for a different life. This novel examines identity and questions our humanity. Also check out her first novel The Story of My Teeth (2015)- it is a humourous and surreal tale that is primarily set at the Jumex Museum in CDMX.

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel (1990)
I was first introduced to Mexico by watching this film in a Montreal movie theater on a cold winter evening. It was easy to fall in love with this revolutionary love story that centers around food. The novel is a fun read and includes recipes.

Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea (2009)
Nineteen-year-old Nayeli notices that her small town is devoid of men because they have all gone north. She heads north to find her father and to find men to return to save the town.

What all these novels have in common is the ability to weave the surreal into the every day giving the reader a different perspective on life- much as Mexico itself does.

Happy Reading,

Jane

Sandra Cisneros

By Julie Etra

I knew nothing about Sandra Cisneros when my Spanish teacher in the United States suggested I read La Casa en Mango Street (The House on Mango Street). Cisneros is a Chicago born Chicana, so the 1984 book was originally written in English when Cisneros was 30. I read it in Spanish as part of my ongoing study of Mexican culture and language; there have been at least three Spanish translations – one in 1994 by the renowned Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska. Coincidentally a great article and interview with Cisneros was recently published in the The New Yorker in September of this year http://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/sandra-cisneros-may-put-you-in-a-poem). To save you from fighting with The New Yorker’s paywall, I’ll be quoting from the article.

Cisneros is perhaps best known for her poetry, although I am a fan of both Casa and the collection of short stories Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991; translated by Liliana Valenzuela in 1996 as El arroyo de la Llorona y otros cuentos).

Although I read both of these books in Spanish, Cisneros has the unique bilingual knack of bridging the two languages, inserting Spanish translations of the English. The 2021 bilingual paperback Martita, I Remember You/Martita, te recuerdo, is written in English on one side but the reader can flip the pages to read the Spanish translation. Clever.

Technically speaking, Cisneros is not a Mexican writer since she was born in the United States. She grew up in a poor neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, the only daughter of a Mexican father and Mexican American mother, surrounded by six brothers. According to Cisneros, she felt isolated as a child and was lumped in with her brothers, described as siete hijos instead of seis hijos y una hija (seven boys instead of six boys and a girl) by her father. Her father was an upholsterer, her mother a book lover.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s her father took the family back and forth to Mexico on a frequent basis; thus she developed the self-identity schism between the two cultures. This was further exacerbated when in 1976 she entered the writer’s program at the Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where she continued to feel like a misfit. She went on to write Casa and then began teaching in San Antonio where she lived for 15 years and founded the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, named after the fictitious town in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).

Cisneros never married nor had children, her rationale being that she did not want to be distracted from her writing and that she was a bit old fashioned in her belief in the sanctity of marriage in that she didn’t want to have a future divorce. According to The New Yorker, she is relieved and apparently happy that she never selected the wrong guy: “It’s hard to live with someone, and it’s hard to live alone. But I prefer living alone. … I’ve never seen a marriage that is as happy as my living alone. My writing is my child and I don’t want anything to come between us.” She has said that the greatest love of her life was her dog Chamaco.

Tired of living in San Antonio, and in particular provincial Texas, she returned to her mother’s Guanajuato roots and now resides in San Miguel de Allende, México, immersing herself in Mexican culture, but not without challenges. She did not take much time to explore the town before she moved there following an auspicious visit.

When the interviewer from The New Yorker remarks, “So you decided to move to San Miguel de Allende,” Cisnero answers, “Yes, I came here. I didn’t know the town was colonial and had a very colonial writing program, all white and expensive and structured in a very colonial way. I didn’t realize it was San Miguel apartheid, and, when I told them that, they were offended and shocked, so I lost my enthusiasm for the book fair. I’m going to be onstage there next spring. I’m only going to do it if I can donate my honorarium to the Spanish-language portion of the fair, so, you know, that’s my way of making my peace with them. I came because this is the land of my mother’s people. I wanted to investigate those roots.”

She named her house in San Miguel Casa Coatlicue. In Nahuatl it means “Serpent Skirt”; Coatlicue is the Nahua mother goddess, symbol of the earth as both creator and destroyer, mother of the gods and the goddess of childbirth, fertility, life, and death, and one of the most important Aztec or Nahua gods. A fitting name for a house of this remarkable and independent woman.

One of my favorite short stories in Woman Hollering Creek (a real creek located behind her house in San Antonio) is “Ojos de Zapata,” (Eyes of Zapata), as told by Inés Alfaro Aguilar, the primera mujer (first woman) of the famous Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Reports indicate that Zapata had anywhere from 9 to 16 “wives” (some of whom he may actually have married); he did not marry Inés, with whom he fathered at least three sons and one daughter.
(That of course stimulated my interest in both Zapata and Inés and led me down the rabbit hole of a chapter of Mexican history before I eventually returned to Cisneros’ next story.) “Ojos de Zapata” is fascinating not only from Inés’ perspective as the neglected “wife” of this famous revolutionary general, but for its sensual descriptions of a time, a place, and a relationship.

Back to The New Yorker interview regarding her residence in San Miguel:
Interviewer: “Is this it? Do you think you’ve finally found home?”
Cisneros: “I think I have one more house in me.”
Interviewer: “Where would it be?”
Cisneros: “Oaxaca, maybe.”

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Kary Vannice
Kary began writing for The Eye a few months after the initial publication. Her deep curiosity about the world around her led her to contribute a wide range of articles, including a series of articles – each on a different topic but all under the title “Rattlesnakes and Scorpions.”

Kary was born in Moscow, Idaho, which frequently led to scrutiny at international borders. She was raised and educated in Grass Range, population 110, located in the geographical center of Montana. After high school, Kary matriculated at a junior college in Wyoming for two years and then went on to the University of Montana, Missoula, graduating with a BS degree in Forestry with a concentration in recreation and resource management. In the following years, Kary was employed by the US Forest Service in a number of national forests including Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington, Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, Earthquake Lake, just west of Yellowstone National Park, and Gallatin National Forest, both in Montana. Her roles ranged from resource education, giving tours and talks to visitors, to fire fighting. To supplement her income Kary started a private outdoor educational camp and worked at the Big Sky Ski School.

While fighting a fire in Montana, Kary noticed another fire fighter, a handsome boy from Chile. Naturally, the relationship heated up and Kary moved with him to land that his parents owned in Patagonia. After about 18 months, the couple moved to Seattle where they bought and lived on a sail boat. Kary’s first trip to the Pacific Coast of Mexico was on that boat. While sailing to Chile, the mast on the boat failed, which required
extensive repairs at Easter Island. Once back in Chile and the boat was docked, the five-year relationship cooled and Kary headed back to Montana with a knowledge of Spanish and refined and tested nautical skills.

Kary exercised those skills by teaching English in Mexico in Orizaba, Veracruz, for three years. It was on a school break that she revisited the Oaxacan coast and realized that she would like to live in Puerto Escondido during most of the year. During the summer, Kary headed to Alaska where she worked on fishing boats and was often second in command, gaining the respect of boat captains and seasoned seamen alike.

During a trip to Huatulco to work on a project to create all natural health clinics, Kary participated in a Red Cross fundraiser where she met a resident of Huatulco who had started a business teaching people how to work online while living in other countries. Impressed with how Kary rapidly organized the fundraiser participants, the businessman
hired her. When the business began to increase rapidly, commuting from Puerto Escondido became cumbersome and Kary moved to Huatulco over nine years ago, first living on a boat in the Chahué Marina.

Today Kary has her own company, Rambladera Inc., which teaches people what they need to know to work while living in other countries. She also is a life coach for women and practices emotional vibrational healing. Outside of work, Kary loves to travel and has been throughout the Americas and Europe but not yet Asia, Africa or Antarctica. She also enjoys water sports and, like the other women of The Eye, reading. Kary thinks her Eye article, “Violence Against Women in Mexico” (February 2017) may be the most important she contributed, since she herself was affected by the distressing research results she presented and believes it is vital for other people to have this information.

B. Traven – A Mexican Writer with A Mysterious Past

By Randy Jackson

I was first introduced to the works of the Mexican writer B. Traven in a Spanish class. We were assigned a short story by Traven, titled “Dos Burros.” I found the story compelling. There was something about both the story itself and the style of narration that appealed to me. So, of course, I googled B. Traven, and immediately plummeted down a curiosity rabbit hole about this strange and enigmatic writer.

In 1952, the Mexican government granted citizenship to Berick Traven Torsvan, a person who, by then, was a well-established writer, living in Mexico and writing under the pen name of B. Traven. How Mexican citizenship was granted to a person as fictitious as a character in one of Traven’s own novels is a mystery in itself.

To confuse his identity further, in Mexico Traven never appeared as Traven, but represented himself as Hal Croves, a supposed friend and agent of B. Traven. When the Hollywood producer John Huston paid for the movie rights to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, he handed the cheque to a person claiming to be Hal Croves, a person with Power of Attorney for B. Traven. Both Huston and the main actor in the film, Humphrey Bogart, later claimed they always thought Hal Croves was B. Traven himself.

But why all this subterfuge? There are many reclusive writers, J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye, for one, and Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, for another – there are many more. But Traven wasn’t the reclusive type. He actively sought to deceive others about his true identity. After his death (March 26, 1969, in Mexico City), we learned the identity Traven was trying to hide was that of Ret Marut, a wanted man with a death sentence on his head.

The Hidden Past of B. Traven

The early days of the Weimar Republic in German (following World War I) were tumultuous, especially in the state of Bavaria (later leading to the rise of Hitler). In April of 1919, a Bavarian Socialist Republic was proclaimed following a communist uprising. Ret Marut became a committee member of that new Socialist Republic. He was arrested just one month later by a Berlin-based militia, which crushed the upstart socialist republic. Ret Marut was put in with a group of prisoners who were being summarily tried and shot. Before his name was called, a sympathetic guard allowed Marut to escape. Marut found his way to London where he was imprisoned for a time for not registering as a foreigner. Eventually Marut found work shovelling coal on decrepit steam ships destined to be scuttled for insurance proceeds. That work brought him to Mexico in 1924.

In Mexico, Murat began using the name Traven Torsvan, writing stories under the name B Traven. Within about a year his stories began to be published in Germany, starting with the serialised The Cotton-Pickers (Die Baumwollpflücker, 1925, published as a novel called The Wobbly [Der Wobbly, the short name for Industrial Workers of the World union] in 1926).

The Writing Career of B. Traven

The stories of B. Traven quickly became popular in Germany (almost all his published works were written in German and published in Germany). He was seen as an adventure story writer. His writing was reminiscent of the very popular works of the American writer Jack London (1896-1916). Traven’s first major success as a novelist was in 1926 with the publication, in Germany, of Death Ship (Das Totenschiff). As a testament to this book’s enduring popularity, years later Albert Einstein is reported to have said it was the book he would take with him to a desert island. Death Ship is seen as autobiographical for Traven. It portrays the life of an international undocumented seamen who is treated like a slave, no doubt derived from Traven’s own experiences in getting to Mexico in 1924.

In 1927, Traven published his most famous novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Der Schatz der Sierra Madre). This was the first of Traven’s novels to be published in Mexico (1931). Later it was also the first Traven novel to be published in English (1934). This story was made into the award-winning film of the same name, now considered a classic, by John Huston in 1948. The story of two down-on-their-luck Americans in Mexico who follow a prospector in the search for gold is well-known, especially for an inaccurate version of the lines delivered by the Mexican bandit Gold Hat, “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”

Through the 1930’s Traven published a series of six novels that are generally referred to as The Jungle Novels. These books tell stories of repressed Mexican indigenous people, and their ill-fated attempts to push back against the harsh dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz, leading up to the Mexican Revolution. It is for these Jungle Novels that the Peruvian novelist Luis Alberto Sánchez (1900-94) labelled B. Traven the author of the Mexican Revolution.

The last of the Jungle Novels, General from the Jungle (Ein General kommt aus dem Dschungel) was published in 1940, seemingly marking the end of Traven’s most productive period. His final four novels before his death in 1969 were Aslan Norval (1960; rediscovered after Traven’s death and translated to English in 2020), Stories by the Man Nobody Knows (published in Mexico as Cuentos de B. Traven, 1969), The Creation of the Sun and the Moon (published in English in New York, 1968), and The Kidnapped Saint and Other Stories (published posthumously, in English in New York, 1975).

Macmillan Publishers now reports that books by B. Traven have sold over 30 million copies and have been translated into 30 languages.

The Stories of B. Traven

As mentioned, my introduction to the writings of B. Traven was the short story “Dos Burros.” What I found compelling was his clear, down-to-earth narrative about a time and place in rural Mexico that were unfamiliar to me. I later read a number of his other short stories, the novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and I re-watched the movie made from the novel. I wish I had the skills to properly articulate what it was that attracted me to Traven stories. However, when I came across this description of Traven’s prose in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I thought this nailed it:

Traven’s works are harsh, filled with descriptions of danger, cruelty, and physical and emotional suffering, but his lean, direct prose has a hypnotic immediacy, and the narratives and themes are clear and compelling.

In the world of literary criticism, there is a perennial unresolved question: Do we need to know anything about a writer to bring more meaning to the works of that writer? Traven, who so desperately wanted to distance himself from his past, certainly had an opinion on this issue: “The creative person should have no other biography than his works.” I wonder whether Traven was aware of how his past and his world view so clearly impacted the stories he told. Probably the best example of this is his novel The Death Ship, which emerged from Traven’s own experiences. Traven (Ret Marut) was an anarchist with clear political leanings towards the underclass and social injustices, and against capitalist exploitation and greed. The Jungle Novels in particular clearly demonstrate these sentiments.

There are no happy endings in Traven’s stories. Of my readings of B. Traven, all the stories ended with my feeling as if things were left up in the air. Nobody ever seemed to come out ahead. A good example? The ending of the novel and movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, when the main character Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) is killed and the gold dust blows away in the wind.

It is characteristic of Traven to never come down on anyone’s side, there are no winners in his stories. In “Dos Burros,” for example, a landless peasant is befriended by a wild donkey so ugly and unruly that nobody wanted him. But once people saw that the donkey was working for this peasant, two different people claimed the same donkey (dos burros), and the peasant ended up with no donkey at all.

No matter his up-in-the-air endings, or characters that never come out on top, B. Traven is read for the content of his stories, the adventure of his tales, the richness of his hapless characters, and his compelling narrative voice. B. Traven is a Mexican writer well deserving of his literary popularity.

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“To a dull mind all of nature is leaden. To the illumined mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love all the stories: mythological, religious and especially the fairy tales. I was raised in a practical family that eschewed the dogma of religion and anything New Age. Myths were in a separate category- not based on reality, but as an interpretation of the world. When people used to ask if I was religious I would answer that “I hadn’t been given the gift of faith.”

Secretly I wanted to believe in everything. I’ve explored every avenue of religion and spirituality that has come my way. I’ve attended dozens of bar mitzvahs and seders. I’ve gone to Unitarian services and confessed at Notre Dame in Paris. I’ve celebrated the Virgen of Guadalupe and participated in a puja on the bank of the Ganges in India. Psychedelics with a shaman, ten-day silent meditation retreats, sessions with a channeler, past-life regression hypnotism? Sign me up! Am I religious? I am multi-religious and multi-spiritual – I believe everything is possible.

I find inspiration in the transcendentalists, for whom Nature was the true cathedral. I always find a walk in the forest or a sunrise on the ocean to be the perfect thing when I need to be reminded of the beauty and magic of this world. The dance of fireflies, the ballet of hummingbirds, the snake hanging out around my house – I consider all of it sacred. One day a large black moth followed me around my office. flitting from my computer to perching on my shoulder, over a period of several days. When I got home there was another by my kitchen door and he followed me around my house for hours. I don’t know what it meant, but it felt like a blessing, a positive omen. Myth and religion are our way to explain what we cannot grasp – the world is full of invisible forces. Life is much more enjoyable when we can find wonder in the mundane, even Shakespeare wrote of fairies.

This month our writers explore the intersection of myth and folklore and religion. Mexico is the ideal environment to suspend your disbelief and see where it leads you.

See you in November,

Jane

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Deborah Van Hoewyk

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

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

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

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

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Carole Reedy

Carole, one of the founding writers of The Eye, may be best known for her many Eye articles providing reviews of books. Born, raised and educated through high school in the south side of Chicago, Carole attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo for two years, majoring in English Literature and Education with a minor in Music. She completed her B.A. degree and certification for teaching at DePaul University in Chicago and then taught high school for three years in Maywood, Illinois. She realized that her true career path was in publications and first became a proof-reader of teaching manuals at the Bell and Howell manufacturing company, then a copy editor at the American Medical Association where she ultimately became the Senior Editor of an AMA publication focused on health for consumers.

While still teaching, Carole met her first long-term partner. They made the mutual decision to move to the Phoenix area of Arizona, where Carole developed a love of the desert, met her husband-to-be and switched careers to the travel industry. She first worked for a friend’s travel agency and then for many years for American Express advising platinum cardholders on their travel plans. Since Carole is passionate about travel and has visited every continent except Antarctica by herself or with small groups of friends, the new career was a perfect match – until she and her husband decided that they wanted to adopt a completely different, less complicated, life style and in 1997, moved to San Miguel Allende and in 1999, to San Augustinillo, a small village on the Oaxaca coast. Unfortunately, her husband died the following year, but Carole remained in the village for nine years and, even after having moved to Mexico City about 15 years ago, still has close friends there and is esteemed by many for having established the San Agustinillo Library.

Living in Mexico City allows Carole to indulge her deep interest in opera and bull-fighting. She also enjoys playing social bridge and, recently, mahjong. She maintains close connections with her three step-children, seven grandkids, and many friends in Mexico and the U.S. But although she encourages visits to see her in Mexico, she is now a Mexican citizen and has no interest in returning to the U.S.

Carole met Jane Bauer many years ago while still living in San Augustinillo. Since Jane knew about Carole’s background, when she decided to publish the Eye, Jane called Carole and asked for her participation. More than ten years later she is still writing. Her favorite Eye contributions are her end-of-the-year book reviews.

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

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

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

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

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

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

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Inspired by International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8th, which in turn inspires much of the content of the March issue of The Eye, Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken have profiled the women writers of The Eye. We’ll be reprinting those profiles month by month, in alphabetical order, starting with founder and Editor-in-Chief Jane Bauer. As the months go by, we’ll sneak in the men, too!

Jane Bauer

Jane is the Editor-in-Chief, Art Director, Publisher, Marketing Director, and originator of The Eye magazine. She began the publication in January 2011 as a means of building a bridge between visitors and English-speaking residents in Mexico and the many small businesses available to provide them with goods and services. She realized that some tourists and foreign residents held distorted perspectives based on misinformation about Mexico and its people, the “nationals” with whom they were interacting. Jane brought together a small group of writers who previously had extensive literary experience and a deep interest in Mexico, and encouraged us to research and write articles about diverse topics to address these misconceptions. She also saw The Eye as a vehicle for small businesses to reach out to visitors and foreign residents with the goal of promoting and growing many “mom and pop” business enterprises. Many local businesses were receptive to this concept and provided support; for example Johnny Gonzales, of Lorama Grafi, did the layouts for the first six issues of the magazine, and he trained Jane to take over the activity.

Jane’s establishment of The Eye might possibly have been predicted from her early years. She was born and raised in Montreal, attending French-speaking schools, including a high school semester in Brittany, France, and went on to earn a BA at McGill University in Cultural Studies with a minor in Women’s Studies. Before graduation, she traveled to Mexico and once she saw Mazunte in Oaxaca she vowed to return, and she did. She worked at small family-run inn in Puerto Ángel and it was there she met her husband. Once their baby daughter Frances was born, Jane became a stay-at-home mom until, in 2005, Frances was ready for first grade. Jane moved to Huatulco where there was a better offering of schools for her daughter and began teaching yoga.

In 2008, she started Café Juanita, which recently moved to Tangolunda. Beginning in 2009, Jane and her boyfriend opened Hemingway’s Cantina, and many of us fondly remember the events she organized there, such as Oscar Night, until 2013. In addition to yoga and Café Juanita, Jane coordinated weddings starting in 2010, established the Huatulco Salt Company in 2016, and started giving cooking lessons. Later she designed and built the Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School in Zimatán, a rural village 25 minutes outside Huatulco, where she also hosts weekly farm-to-table dinners. In the hours when she is not teaching, managing her numerous projects and bringing out the latest issue of The Eye, Jane is a voracious reader, totaling 53 books last year, mostly fiction.

In her role as Editor-in-Chief, Jane publishes an editorial each month. Although she is hard-pressed to select a favorite, she really likes her editorial from the September/October 2013 issue on “What I Learned in Mexico.” Jane is justifiably proud of the way the English-speaking community continues to clamor for hard copies of The Eye and equally proud of the ability of the online Eye to keep people living in other countries interested in Mexico and wanting to return. As Jane hoped, The Eye has become a bridge among foreign visitors and residents and many small businesses. Businesses that advertise in or are written about in The Eye report significant increases in patronage.

For more about Jane: Instagram @livingfoodmexico

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

The New Year can be magical, depressing or just another day. It’s hard to believe that 22 years ago the world waited with baited breath to see if all our technology would collapse. I was pregnant at the time and already living in a Mexican village without a telephone so I wasn’t too worried about what it would mean for me if all the computers shut down.

Back in 2012 we pondered the Mayan doomsday prophecy that the world would end. I wasn’t too concerned then, either – just wanted to be surrounded by people I love.

Well, technology is still going strong and there are more of us than ever before – even with a pandemic, the world population is 7.9 billion, so I don’t think we will be going on the extinct species list anytime soon.

The go-to man for predictions for the last 500 years or so has been the French physician Michel de Nostredame, most commonly known as Nostradamus. For 2022 Nostradamus has predicted asteroids raining down on the earth, massive world hunger, migrant issues, inflation spiraling out of control, the fall of the European Union, shortage of resources leading to a climate war and a massive earthquake.

And it is the season when the message board threads fill with cringe-worthy questions and comments regarding the cheapest way to get from the airport or warning people about waiters scamming them. The underlying vibe of these queries seems to be that the posters are worried about being overcharged or scammed, which suggests they have the expectation that is the norm here. It is not.

The airport: Like most international airports there is transportation. Average cost, per person, is 180 pesos. There is no need to arrange beforehand. Easy. To return to the airport at the end of your holiday expect to pay about 200 pesos for a standard taxi. The variation in cost between coming and going has to do with airport transportation services paying more for their license etc. This is common practice in many places. Don’t overthink it.

Tipping: Tip a minimum of 15% at restaurants. If the beach waiter adds 10% service (which is often how it is done here) be sure to add some extra to show your gratitude for great service. When someone bags your shopping at the grocery store, pumps your gas, delivers food, massages you, pedicures your dry winter feet – tipping is standard etiquette – not charity. Be generous, be gracious and be grateful and you will find yourself surrounded by a community of hard-working people who will go above and beyond to help you.

My theory is that reality will rise up to meet your expectations. So whether it is what the new year has to offer or what to expect on your holiday, move through the world with positive purpose, be respectful of the unknown, seek out the good in each moment – especially in the difficult moments.

See you next month,

Jane