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Spiderman and San Ramon Nonato … Christmas and gossip

20 December 2003

Two signs of winter: dogs in clothes and changing exchange rates. Other than poodles and german shepherds (and not even then), you can’t always tell family pets from free spirits. They’re all happy and dirty, laying out on the street or scrounging around the market. But, when the weather turns cold (and it has), everyone in the family puts on a coat – including Fido. Coatless dogs are homeless dogs. The dog at the local gas station sports his own Pemex uniform jacket, though I think “Manuel” is his person – dogs usually don’t get people names here. And the dollar drops. Zacatecas used to be the richest place in the western hemisphere (well worth a visit), but the silver mines gave out in the 19th century, and the only crops are goats and cactus. Even in good-sized Zacatecan towns, you don’t see any adult men most of the year. An awful lot of them come home for Christmas, but, if they can’t, they find Bank of America or Western Union. A banker told me his biggest headache is finding extra people and cash for rural banks this time of year. Every Mexican “on the other side” (with or without papers) also sends money home. Billions of dollars pout into Mexico, and you know the story … the supply increases more than the demand . The dollar plunged from 11 pesos to around 10.25. The big debtors buy cheap dollars, pay off foreign debts, the dollar goes back up, and it’s back to normal instability. Ah, Christmas! My traditionally cheesy pirata Christmas CD lacks Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”, but it has Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “Jingle Bells” in Spanglish. The church across the street has an extravagantly lit work in progress now featuring: Maria, Jose, el Niño, shepherds, sheep, goats, 8 tiny reindeer (nowhere do I recall it ever says exactly what critters composed those flocks watched by night), chickens, ducks, turkeys, burros, campesinos, cacti, Aztecs, Mayans, Melichor, Balthazar, Abindingo, camels, elephants, horses, Bambi and Thumper. No Spiderman — yet. Speaking of impressive displays, go to the cathedral and check out all the padlocks offered to San Ramon Nonato — not to be confused with Ramon Novarro. They’re both known for silent roles. Novarro was a Mexican-born 20s film star; San Ramon a 13th century Spanish preacher who annoyed the Moors. Being heathens and all they sewed his lips shut. The favorite activity of your traditionally dysfunctional Mexican family – especially at this time of fellowship and good cheer — is calumniating and bearing false witness against their nearest and dearest. Mexicans love gossip. You need a saint who tells people to shut up. The calumniators should lock their lips, so the caluminatees leave San Ramon the locks. Looks like there’s a whole lotta calumniating going on. History is gossip that doesn’t get back to Aunt Consuela … who might put a divine “lip lock” on ya! So, better to talk about, oh… Joel Roberts Poinsett, our first master spy. Who knows what he was up to in Kygyzia during George Washington’s administration? GW, unlike GWB, was intelligent and far-sighted –he knew where the future trouble spots were. Our first Ambassador to Mexico channeled secret state department funds to a Masonic lodge — a front to recruit agents and influence domestic policy. When his cover was blown, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams “disavowed any knowledge”. Poinsett packed a few “flor de nochebuena” cuttings in his luggage and fled north. I’d say more about poinsettias, but my lips are sealed.

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