Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Golden reflections of sunset over the ocean took over my senses and transported me back to the first time I saw this place. My memories of this place stretch for miles and pleasant miles along the Pacific Coast Highway. I started to visit these beaches when I worked as an illegal alien in Tecate, BC, Mexico. I crossed the border to party and go to the beach in San Diego on a regular basis while I was teaching at a spa for Americans in the beer border town known as TKT in local lingo. As a wetback gringa I enjoyed easy free passage through the border. My employers bribed the Mexican aduana, and the US side was much different before 2001. We had an ideal way of life that included being paid to live at a destination spa. I made the most of it while it lasted, and am always happy that I did. Those days will never return. I kept crossing into Mexico to work until 2003, when I decided it had become too violent and scary to continue. The good old days were gone forever. Mexico lingo y querido had vanished forever.
Standing on a cliff in Encinitas I watch the surfers below me catch a few waves at the end of the day. I stop to watch the horizon for a green flash when the sun meets the water. A pelican glides in front of the light, fishing. The natural beauty of this stunning place in nature has endured through many political upheavals. I thought about the pelican and his flock needing no visa to cross the border. I wonder if man is conquering nature or nature has conquered man. FLASH!!! There is a moment of bright green that marks the end of this day. Most of us consider the green flash to be a sign of good luck. I am optimistic.
This is a story inspired by Sue Vincent’s photo prompt. Please visit Sue at the Daily Echo to read, write, or just enjoy posts from around the world interpreting this image. Every Thursday we take on a new image.
I had the pleasure of meeting Agustín Cruz Prudencia and his nephew Jesus at the Tucson Botanical Gardens yesterday. The copal wood carvings they brought to Tucson for sale are lively and brightly colored. I fell in love with the figures instantly. I am officially on restriction from buying any art, but I could not pass up the chance to own a piece of their stunning work. I was in a pinch for time, but made a choice to buy the frog that is happily decorating my living room now. It goes with all the art in my house, and yet has a unique quality that makes it stand out. It will be a prized momento from my encounter with these incredible craftsmen.
They are Zapotec from a tribe that lived, and still lives in a remote part of the state of Oaxaca. Agustín’s father moved his family to the capitol city of Oaxaca in order to make a living by selling his art. They now have a workshop that employs about 15 family members carving and painting the folkloric figures. The super fine painting is done without stencil or straight edge. They develop the ability to create super intricate geometric patterns by eye, by hand. The apprenticeship to learn this craft takes a long time. It is easy to appreciate all the fine work that goes into each piece. With both delicate carving and intricate paint designs these little characters pop with personal style.
They are going home for Christmas to be with their family. They will be celebrating with banana leaf tamales and other special seasonal dishes. They are very proud of their culture and cuisine, and rightly so. Both of my new young friends had spoken their native mother tongue as children, but have lost the ability to speak it after years in the city. They suffer from heavy discrimination against indigenous tribes in the city, so speaking it is dangerous. They still understand their mother tongue when they hear it. Their elders dressed in traditional clothing, and those members of the tribe in remote mountains still do. Modern Zapotec life as an artist is complicated, and includes borders and customs. I am glad they made the effort to bring this unique folk art to Tucson. I hope the sale works out very well for them so they will return. If you are in Tucson this weekend you can make a purchase at the United Nations Association of Southern AZ on 10 and 11 December. They have gifts in all price ranges for all art lovers.
We have a special exhibit on loan from the New York Botanical Garden this winter. A tribute to the home, garden, and life of the famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, works very well in Tucson, close to the Mexican border. I visited yesterday for the first time. The central display is a replica of a pyramid Frida had in her court yard for plants. The vibrant blue color of the walls contrasts very well with the marigolds in place for Day of the Dead. The exhibit includes a photography collection I did not see, an indoor collection detailing life in Mexico City during the lives of Diego and Frida, and the garden show. There will be educational opportunities offered for those who want to learn more about her life and times.
I have been her fan for many years, as much for her politics as for her art. I am happy to see her on tour. I met a lady at the garden with her two teen daughters from Phoenix who was visiting to teach her daughters about her. The girls were impressed with what they saw. Frida lives on as a cult figure. If you have a chance to see this very well curated exhibit I encourage you to do so. I know I will be a frequent visitor during this show.
I have a solid memory of the morning of September 11, 2001. My father called me on the phone and told me the Pentagon had just been hit. I said “It’s just a Pentagon.” Then I turned on the TV news, and to my horror, learned about the tragic events that had taken place while I was rocking and rolling around my house, blissfully unaware. Those of us who were alive when JFK was shot all had a spooky feeling that this terror was all connected. The axis of evil had landed on our shores, and nothing would ever be the same. We lost our innocence, and many of us also lost our minds.
The first responders, and their sacrifices, came into focus like never before in modern history. The risks and the losses they take every day started to hit home in the hearts and minds of American citizens. Many folks joined the military because they felt the need to do something to protect our country. We got a Department of Homeland Security and the borders started getting way tighter. I was well aware of the border phenomena because I was working as a wetback gringa in Mexico at the time. Suddenly the Tecate border crossing, which had always been almost a joke border, became very strict. This clogged up the traffic, which would back up for blocks in Tecate, BC, waiting to cross. There were people who would wait in the line for you for a fee, and those people had all the work they wanted. Since I was a guest instructor, spending only a couple of weeks at time down there, the border issue really put a wet blanket on my commute. I had to drive 6 hours from Tucson, which I had accepted. I just could not handle waiting an hour in bumper to bumper traffic while waiting to leave the country. I determined after a couple of years that Mexico, lindo y querido, was no longer fun for me. I have not crossed the border since 2003. I have not seen the border wall, and I may never see it.
Things changed for the worse in Mexico because all kinds of people who had walked to the border from Guatemala, Chiapas, or Nicaragua were stuck. They had few options. The criminal element suddenly had a huge influx of desperate people to employ, a boon to smuggling and anything else they cared to do. They probably started digging new tunnels all over the place with their new source of labor. Our tiny town of TKT (the local way to spell Tecate) went from safe to wildly violent overnight. One of my Mexican colleagues came in to work all freaked out because she had discovered her boyfriend, chopped up in the trunk of a car. We went from zero to chopped up in the trunk of a car in no time. It was no longer safe for me to ride the public bus to Tijuana, use the route taxis to go to to the beach , or generally live it up in borderlandia. The party was over, but it had been very good while it lasted.
Now we mark the date with remembrance of the solemn occasion. I am afraid that the meaning is being lost. People are using it to sell merchandise, which really offends me. We all lost something on that day. I lost a country and a culture that I loved dearly. I mean Mexico when I say that, but in many ways my own country endured a cultural change from which we will not recover. What did you personally lose, gentle reader?
Loss of dignity at the mattress store
The first time I saw Cachora he was sitting in the shade using a needle and thread to thread tiny seed beads. He was about 85 years old, wearing no glasses. The sight of him actually able to do this made me laugh hard out loud. He commented without looking up, in Spanish, saying he was just another Indian doing handicrafts. I had been told that he was Don Juan. He spreads this rumor himself, but it is not hard to figure out that he isn’t.
I asked him if he was a shaman, to which he responded negatively. He said he was a man of knowledge. He then began to tell me his entire cosmology. He began with his birthday and place, then his parents birthdays and place. He and his father were born in Rio Yaqui, Sonora, like Don Juan. Cachora’s mother was from Oaxaca. His parents had met while collecting plants for medicine. He told me his parents had never used pesos in their lives, but had traded medicinal plants for all they needed. This was their craft and way of life. The vest he shows here belonged to his father, and was worn for healing ceremonies. That is the case, if Cachora is telling the truth about this vest. He is what is known in the world of medicine as a coyote. He lies a lot, misleading and amusing himself with the confusion of others. So I took the birthday information and went to a book store to buy and reread A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda. The first fact given about Don Juan is this birthday, many years before Cachora’s.
This man of knowledge became my friend. I called him on the Don Juan thing on my second visit. I also remembered to bring him what he wanted rather than money. This practice made me a favorite. His first requests were for some specific stone beads, some hummingbird feeders, and some reading glasses. I returned with his wish list items about three months after we had met. I used to hang out and joke with him, learning a little about plants. He told me that I am a siren.
I spoke with a friend in Tijuana last year and learned that he was still alive and kicking. His much younger wife, Josefina, had died, but he was in the company of a young girlfriend from Spain. He is not Don Juan, but, as he puts it, there is some of him in all those books. South of Tecate, in the valley of the sorcerer, a Yaqui hombre de conocimiento named salamander (that is the translation of Cachora) is still in the business of knowledge.