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Wool-gathering

18 December 2009

Everywhere in Mexico this time of the year, you find people on the streets selling toy sheep.  Foreigners and tourists are sometimes a bit mystified by the sudden outbreak of ovinomania, when country folk pour into the cities to sell these little toy sheep for a couple of pesos a pop (three for ten pesos for my little guy… the other two having gone to Editorial Mazatlan).  Usually visitors — and even some long term foreign residents — assume they’re the flock over which the shepards watch by night in the family  naciamento.  Wrong holiday… these are New Years sheep.

The Mexican slang word for money is “lana” … wool.  And where does wool come from?  We all hope for a Prospero año nuevo, and aren’t above a little  sympathetic magic to increase the odds.

Speaking of which… Mexfiles just renewed it’s “domain mapping” for 2011, and there are a few on-going expenses (electricity, telephone, etc.) that add up over the year.

Gods, Gachupines and Gringos (or other Editorial Mazatlán books) are a thoughtful gift for that Mexiphile on your Christmas shopping list… or for Matt Yglesias, who needs to learn something about Latin America.

I’m working on a book in collaboration with Richard Finks, who chairs the translation program at the Autonomous University of Gualdalajara for graduate students and other “younger” Mexico transplants as well as starting a new book on “bad gringos” — those writers who saw Mexico with a jaundiced eye:  Thomas Gage, a Puritan propagandist who had defected from the Spanish Franciscans; Henry George Ward, the first British ambassador, put out by the lack of decently inedible English food in this country; Fanny Calderon de la Barca, whose 1846 “Life in Mexico” has never been matched for pure, unadulterated snark; Edith Coutts O’Shaughnessy, the diplomatic spouse who found the revolting masses of 1910 frankly revolting; and William S. Burroughs, whose Mexican experiences gave him some inside dope on … dope and life inside (inside Lecumberri Prison that is).

Most of the research is from out of print books… not terribly expense, but I get sheared on the shipping charges, and a little extra wool helps in getting through the winter.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim Trujillo permalink
    19 December 2009 8:16 am

    Enjoying the post today as usual Richard, and especially the “sheeps” angle. It reminded me of the old Chuco slang from my East LA youth,
    “Orale Ese, no tienes lana pa un short dog? ” Or from my grandparents who were sheepherders in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado and used to crack me up when telling story’s about being shepherds in Wyoming, “En los ano’s cuando anda in la borrega en Guayuma”.
    Or that old dicho my Grandmother used to use often when explaining the hard luck of some relative or friend, “Pobre Jose Luis, ir por lana y volver trasquilado!”
    He came back sheared! Classic.

  2. Panted Aussie permalink
    19 December 2009 10:19 pm

    I learnt another amusing new years tradition. Women’s underware, for new years they wear otherwise red or yellow underware, depending what they want in the new year.
    red for love and yellow for money.
    Could only think after hearing this little nugget, was, if they wore yellow woollen underware, would they be 2 times as lucky.

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