Bobby gets Zuetered

I like toys. Particularly stuffed bunnies. With enough time and patience, the ears WILL come off
Or, perhaps this look has something to do with what happened ….

This is Bobby tonight, but last night he wasn’t feeling so mischievous.

Yesterday morning I saw a notice that the President of Mexico’s Veterinary Association was in town for one day to train San Miguel de Allende vets in a new, non-surgical sterilization technique for male dogs. Suffice it to say that it involves needles and testicles, but when I looked it up on the Internet I discovered that it also includes brief sedation, thus no pain.  The procedure has received FDA approval in the United States where it will probably be called Zueterin. Here in Mexico, it’s called Esterilsol. But, ‘Bobby gets Esterilsoled’ just doesn’t have the same ring.

You can learn about the process at the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs at

While the procedure itself only took a few minutes, I started feeling faint as soon as Bobby was given sedation.  As he collapsed under his own weight, the young Dr. Merrill and I held him and gently laid him on the ground. (There are two Dr. Merrills, the elder, and the young son. While they are more expensive than most vets here, their humanity and love of animals radiates off them the first time you shake their hand. Fortunately, the young Dr. Merrill was there to learn the new procedure himself so there was no charge as he tended to Bobby’s breathing and comfort.  Lucky me.  Once again.)

While Bobby breathed slowly, out cold and waiting for his turn, I beat myself up mentally.  I HATE watching animals be tranquilized. In the wild they will stay up until their last breath, hoping to fool the predator who might see weakness.  That instinct remains in domesticated animals.  It’s painful to watch them struggle to stand while they’re going down.  “Once again,” I thought to myself, “a dog is suffering for my principals.  Bobby doesn’t want to go through this.  WHY do I have to do this?”

You know the answer.

Actually it wasn’t awful for Bobby.  And, I believe and trust that this new technique, without the recovery time necessary for surgical castration, will allow shelters to neuter more dogs less expensively, and pet owners to opt out of incision complications.

I’m pretty sure it was the sedation that ruined Bobby’s night.  He wasn’t in pain, just extremely sleepy and Not Hungry.  Bobby, who will dance on the head of a pin for a cookie, refused HAM.

Until around 11:00, when he gladly cleaned a dish of ham & sharp cheddar chunks I placed at his mouth.

About an hour ago I gave him a ‘new’ toy that Uncles Roger & Clint had brought over for Coyo.


Bobby is back!











His name is Bobby

Mary helped me take ‘Perro’ down to Ecologia’s vet this morning to make sure his chest cold was gone.  It is, and now the Shaggy One can be groomed. I also filled out adoption papers so Fur Boy is out of the pound’s system. Thanks, Mary!

While we were there Armis, a city worker at Ecologia, pulled out his execution, ah … intake papers.  His name is Bobby. Only, the way Armis pronounced it was “Booby.” But, it was written “Bobby”, and he responds to Bobby, so Bobby it is.

His crime?  He crapped in the house.

Bobby, Booby. I just call him “What a good boy!” because he’s the first dog I’ve cared for who actually listens to what I say.  With Asher for example, who stayed in Louisville with his second Mom and true love Foosie, it was always a test case.  “Do you reeeeally mean it?”  With Bobby, it’s one sharp “Aa!” and he is completely and totally sorry for whatever he’s done to offend you.

Good boy!

Next stop for Raggedy Muffin is Dusty Puppies for grooming.

OMG, then she’s going to NEUTER me!

After all this is done (sorry, Bobby) Kelly Karger, who heads Save A Mexican Mutt [SAMM] is going to place him for adoption in a forever home.  Kelly came over to meet Bobby this afternoon and agrees with me.  He’s a “just add love” kind of kid, although she said “Just add water” because of his excellent behavior.

Kelly and SAMM‘s volunteers have been doing excellent work placing dogs in permanent homes both in San Miguel de Allende and in the U.S. through a rigorous adoption process.  Bobby is already up on SAMM’s page.

Go hit the LIKE button to give him a boost, k?

PS – For those who know me well, you’re damn right I’d like to keep Bobby.  But you also know that I’m not in a mental or physical place right now in which I can make a life time commitment. My best shot is to foster him until his person comes along to give him 100%.

He will surely return 150.

The curious affair of Mexican identity

Google the phrase ‘indigenous people in Mexico’ and you’ll come up with hits in the millions, all basically agreeing that since the Conquest, Mexico’s original inhabitants have been treated like s*&t.

Yet, here is the Mexican flag

The eagle eating a rattle snake while perched on a cactus is the Mexica, or Aztec, founding myth for Mexico City.


And, pretty much every single craft sold out of Mexico is made by the descendants of its original inhabitants.

Like this embroidery, stitched by women from the Otami, here in San Miguel de Allende

Gorgeous stuff, huh?

This woman is a member of the Otami tribe living on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende. I see women and girls dressed like her on the streets every day.  True to consensus opinion, she is at the bottom of the San Miguel de Allende social ladder.

O.K., the U.S. has a Native American population and they’re not faring well either.  But, the entire nation isn’t permeated by their presence – down to the flag – nor profiting from their labor.  From the border to Guatemala, Mexico is selling its native people’s’ artistry to every tourist with a few pesos. Despite the fact that they make up only about 15% of the population, their work has become what it means to be Mexican.

I see lots of little girls dressed like this walking to celebrations here in San Miguel, though you wouldn’t catch a hip, urban teenager dead in it. Nor a chic Mexican woman, if the fashions on the telenovelas are any indication. [Frida Kahlo did it and has reached the status of iconography in Mexico, but she was a bohemian.]

So why are these some sixty-two native groups, centered mainly in central and Southern Mexico, producing most of what the world thinks as uniquely Mexican, treated so badly?

I suspect it’s for the same reason Saddam Hussein furnished his living room in Louis XIV

.I.E., most people in Mexico are a mixture of native Indian and Spanish. When you’re moving up in the Eurocentric western world, you don’t want to be reminded of where the poor half of the family came from. Ignoring that side of the DNA in Mexico is a full time job.  You know, except for the noble savage and let’s-make-a-buck part of it.

[Until his recent demise, Mr. Hussein was movin’ on up too. But, you only have to look at Metropolitan Home to realize Louis XIV sells extremely well to old and new MONEY.]

Granted my view of what appears to be a form of national schizophrenia is limited by the little time I’ve been here. And, the Mexican government deserves props for all kinds of ‘indigenous rights’ – on paper.  Still, it feels a little like being in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as I observe social attitudes and economic facts on the ground.

Well, I’m sure it’s all much more complicated than what I think.

Isn’t it?


It has long distressed me that animals are not philosophically considered the heroes of their own lives, but only as objects which can be acted upon by the top primate in the food chain.

This dog was literally thrown away at the pound Thursday afternoon with a summary “I don’t want him!”, and a willing hand to sign his euthanasia.

About one and a half years old physically, but an ‘old soul’ by temperament

With the generous permission of my landlady, he is now in foster care under my roof until he finds a homo sapien that will stand up for him. So gentle that he would make a weaker woman cry, I whisper to him that he is a ‘good dog’. I’ll do all in my power to see him go to a compassionate ape.

I talk this way because we are not cut off from nature, but part of her ourselves.  To carve out a place for ourselves at the pinnacle of evolution – separate and above all other species – seems to me short-sighted at best.  To make all other species the objects of our stories, a tragedy in equal parts for us and them. To throw an animal away, the worst form of betraying ourselves.

Have you ever considered animal rights in its purest form?  By this I mean, the right to live.

Why shouldn’t an otter, the ‘peak’ of its own evolutionary form, have as much a right to live as we have? No being is better at being an otter, certainly not us.  And, if we truly see, we will see them  as the subjects of their own lives.  It is my opinion that we actually have something to learn from otters and dogs and cats and birds and …. microbes.

But, maybe that’s just me.

I helped staff the table for Adopciones de Animales Friday.  That’s where I met the dog that everyone wants to call Benji.

As for me, this gentle creature with the green/gold eyes will find his own name.  When he tells me, I’ll tell you.

For the extraordinarily lucky person who will commit to him for his life, a new name will come.

For now, he is “Perro”.


Alright.  I lied.  I’m actually crying.

But I’ll get over it.  Something Perro would not have had the chance to do if a hairless ape didn’t stand for him.

Spay. Neuter. Foster. Adopt. Educate.

We are NOT in this alone.



An invitation

I was so impressed by yesterday’s video work that I was inspired to take my (crappy)camera with me today.  I headed out around 11:00 to walk down to the Institute de Allende under a cloudy sky. If you have a few moments, walk with me.

On Quebrada, where I live, there’s a bridge over Canal Street.  I love the blues of these flowers tumbling over the walls. There’s nothing extraordinary about this either.  San Miguel de Allende is full of gentle pleasures.

On my way to Ancha San Antonio

When I stand on the bridge, I can look to my left towards La Parroquia.

I can go down a level and walk up Canal to El Jardin if I want to, but today I just look.

Today my left turn is on Umaran, a block with homes and small businesses, including one of my favorite sandwich restaurants, El Torta Mundo. The ‘E’ sign indicates that parking is ahead. Don’t laugh – I didn’t know what it meant for at least a week when I got here.

Taking a right on to Zacateras [which turns into Ancha San Antonio] I get a chance to photograph one of this marvelous artist’s paper statues at his gallery.  [I saw his showing at La Biblioteca a couple of weeks ago.  Outstanding.]

See what I mean about small pleasures around every corner? Of course I’m in the Centro, and this is where the galleries are. I know. I’m lucky.

I’m the worst when it comes to the most important meal of the day. Time for a pit stop on Zacateras.  From what I can tell, this cafe is *very* popular with gringos. I think it’s called ‘El Mesa Grande’ but I’m old now and will remember their name tonight. Or … tomorrow.

Lovely room that’s empty for the shot because I’m here between breakfast and lunch. Don’t worry, they filled up within 10 minutes.

Here’s a random window.  Just any old window in the Centro really, but I could hear the trumpets blow.

[Lord, I wish I could insert a wave file by Joseph Collier, trumpet player with James Brown for 21 years, behind this picture!]

Here’s some detail from a random wall

That’s how it is here.  Some useless piece of beauty that sings with desert colors.

And now, the rather somber but very grand Instituto de Allende

I’ve never entered the building before.  Check this out

See the tables in the far left corner?  It was so peaceful here that I had another cup of coffee.

I am truly saying buenas tardes to everybody now!

With my mission to the Art Institute completed, ever the curious I went into a home furnishing store in the same massive grey building. The store is cavernous and outfitted for the grand hacienda.  But a woman can dream … or at the very least appreciate the artistry that money can buy.

When I win the lottery, this could be my new bed

And I could put this in the foyer leading upstairs

And back home I came.

But, a word.

Nobody knows better than me how fortunate I am.  Despite the fact that I’m living on social security, I can choose to look at beauty, or I can, and do, face abject poverty with clear eyes. Today was a walk through my current hood. Tomorrow everything could change.

So, one more image (from my crappy camera).  It’s the fountain at the entrance to the home furnishings store.  Just another random capture of a moment of tranquility

For which I am heartily thankful.

Two video views of San Miguel de Allende

The talented artist Sherry Rubel has a YouTube video up that features her work in B&W photography describing ” …. 50 days in San Miguel de Allende”.  Not concerned with the charm factor or architectural detail, Ms. Rubel’s work looks at the Mexican people who live, work, and play in San Miguel.  In their faces a sensitive photographer reveals the labors, quiet joys, and old wisdoms that created and sustain this small town.

The next color video by visitor ‘videomanjohn’ places the participants in Ms. Rubel’s work in the landscape and architecture that surely nurtures them as much as any of us expats living here.

I found watching these two videos in sequence to be enlightening.




Visiting CEDESA, an oasis in the high desert

Since the rainy season arrived a few short weeks ago, the bleak and blasted landscape I saw on my trip May 30th from the Leon airport to San Miguel de Allende has been transformed.  (This photo from Southern California, but it’s the same landscape!)

Now in the campo a verdant green springs up coating mountainsides and farms, gardens and meadows. I’m told the rains were not so copious last year or the year before.  This year everyone dances.  The corn and bean crops should do well in Guanajauto state, at least.

I got out into the countryside yesterday because I lept at the chance to visit CEDESA: “Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario A.C.” [Center for Agricultural Development] on the outskirts of Hildago Delores, a smaller town roughly 25 miles from San Miguel de Allende through said transformed landscape.

Why CEDESA you ask?  This pretty much sums it up.

Not a CEDESA logo, but the driving idea behind its work

On a globe with dwindling power and water supplies, with food nearly dominated by mono-cultured fields and chemical agribusiness, and so devoid of nutrition that obesity rates rise as health declines, and here in Mexico where rural towns and farms are short-shrifted by municipal services like said power, water and healthcare, a group like CEDESA provides hope.

This teaching/learning center on 50 acres, established in 1965, seeds its surrounding eight counties with professional & technical knowledge on what we’ve come to know as sustainable living.

From A to Z – where the S represents a spiritual dimension of dignity and compassion in a community’s human, animal and plant relationships.

Oh, and the M stands for medicinal plants.

What’s not to like?

The reason for a our trip yesterday is that CEDESA is building a restaurant.  Like many projects in Mexico, it’s a ‘build as you go’ (as the money comes in) situation.

Here’s where you’ll have to use your imagination:

If you love Mexico’s sense of color, go ahead and paint this building. Then place tables and chairs inside, and out under the roof, with colored table cloths and wrought iron candle holders.  You could string lights along the roof, solar powered of course, and surely you’ll want some flowers.

What’s interesting is that in its beginning shape, the restaurant is already full of imagination.  It is being built in the old way, the traditional way, a way that’s been forgotten but can be relearned by any family that visits and inquires about its construction.  Here’s one of its open secrets:

Instead of the ubiqutous concrete, or kiln fired bricks, that’s cured adobe that you’re looking at.  Hmmm.  Earth.  There’s plenty of that around here. And here, in its unfinished form, is a living demonstration project for anyone who stops along the way and wants to learn about building with adobe.

Wait, there’s more!

The two ovens inside are designed to burn a very small amount of wood.  [That’s the tiny rectangle beneath the grill at the very bottom. When lifted up, the circle with the handle is the big oven].

But it’s the tale of the ashes that’s interesting.  They will become part of the composting material for dry toilets, an ecologically sound way to manage excreta in areas where there is little water.


Within six months the composted material can then be used as fertilizer in home gardens or fields.

Take that, Potash Corporation.

There’s a plan for the restaurant’s grey water too.  If that’s a new concept, here’s your link:

And what will the restaurant serve? Organic foods grown on CEDESA’s grounds through sustainable agricultural practices.  Cooked in traditional Mexican recipes.  Can we all say “slow food”?

Uh huh, you and I want to eat here!

Over forty-seven years of planning and building, CEDESA has transformed its communal grounds into a riot of fruit trees, gardens, paths, low-slung adobe classrooms,offices, kitchens and dormitorios, singing fountains and, I’m quite sure, a bird sanctuary.  (They’ve also deliberately left part of their land wild for animals and nature’s experiments in cross pollination.) To see what they’ve built, using strictly ecologically sound and sustainable principles, is to see a rather ruthless high desert domesticated into a small paradise. But, not only has CEDESA grown a paradise, they’ve become an oasis of sanity because of what they teach.

To walk on its shaded brick pathways, to see the shafts of sunlight illuminating avocado trees whispering over beds of indigenous lettuces, to hear water recycling through mosaic fountains, to watch insect and plant life perform its daily ritual is at once a tribute to CEDESA’s Catholic ‘liberation theology’ founders,

Catholic priest Guillermo Davalos Martinez, affectionately known as “Father Memo” and a woman who worked at his side whose name I’ve shamefully forgotten

and a deeply personal experience of what the present can be, and what the future must surely look like.

CEDESA needs $1,000.00 US to build the new restaurant’s environmentally friendly public toilets.  In turn, they will continue to take successful ecological techniques into the Guanajato countryside:

Models for dry toilets, cisterns, solar water cleansers, solar power, sustainable techniques for food sovereignty, medicinal plants, construction, water management

I know that dry toilets aren’t sexy, but anybody can donate to this teaching/learning center’s work.

Today a dry toilet for a sustainable ‘college’s restaurant –  tomorrow, the world!

Here’s your link.  Google will translate.


Over Mexico’s long and tumultuous struggle with land reform the Mexican campesino has never been allowed to thrive. Places like CEDESA prove that rural farmers and families can survive on the land and further, provide models for a ‘first world’ that must change along with them.

It would take a week to tell you how much I learned yesterday, and a better writer than I am to tell you how much I want to see them continue their success.

Mexican time

Every one NOB knows the manana stereotype, since we’ve done more than any one to perpetuate it.

My experience in San Miguel de Allende is quite different.

I’m not saying that manana doesn’t exist – especially for retired expats. We can afford to take our time and put off until tomorrow what we don’t feel like doing today. But, the average person on the street in San Miguel de Allende walks with intent.

Mothers are either taking their kids to school, or walking them home afterwards.  Men are working – I mean *really* working – in tiendas, parking cars, as valets and bartenders, driving taxis, or delivering something (usually quite heavy.)  Women [my age] are carrying burdens as well, while younger women dash to their office jobs or nurture their babies.

The problem is that there’s not enough work.

Still, I don’t see anyone except for the truly old, lounging around. There’s a bustle here that, while it doesn’t hold a candle to the Italians who seem to rush in and out of espresso shops with a watch ticking in their ear, convinces me at least that people here want to work.

I’m being confirmed in my opinion, formed years ago when I worked side by side with Mexicans in some of L.A.’s shiniest restaurants, that this nation’s people are some of the hardest working folks on the globe.

If I were Queen, I’d give all of them work that paid a living wage.

Then I’d award every family a bonus dessert on Friday.


Because they actually take the time to laugh and say hello during their efforts.



OMG, San Miguel de Allende is a Vortex!

During my perambulations around El Jardin this morning I stopped to listen to a fabulous Spanish guitarist flaming away outside of a restaurant on the plaza.  The dad part of a father/son duo here in San Miguel called Chandra & Chelo, he is so good that I gladly purchased their CD, Aguila de la Paz.

Marcelo Garcia (Chelo) playing on the steps of La Belle Italia this morning

The funny thing is, if you watched the T.V. movie with Antonio Banderas titled “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself”, you’ve already seen Chelo because he played Gen. Toribio Ortega.  A man of many talents, not the least of which is the ability to roar on that unique ‘slapping’ technique that Spanish guitarists use to accompany the melody with percussion.

If you’re in San Miguel de Allende, Chelo’s son Chandra is playing with his band of  younger musicians at the Rosewood Hotel this saturday. Chelo describes his son as a “musical genius” with equal parts of envy and respect.  I’ll go, despite the Rosewood’s reputation as being monstrously expensive.

Chelo went on to tell me about a YouTube video a North Carolinian film maker named Jack Alterman made a couple of years ago.  The music from Chelo & Chandra’s Aguila de la Paz plays as the background.

Mr. Alterman’s tribute to San Miguel de Allende and two artists from North Carolina who live here is beautifully produced -fabulous imagery and music blended in such a way that it’s alllll about “pueblo magico.”

That’s where I learned that San Miguel de Allende is built on a mountain of quartz!

[I almost waded through an extremely dry paper on geology to persuade you skeptics with a link, but suffice it to say that several spas around here (of which there are many) tout their thermal baths carved out of quartz and limestone as regenerative.  This area is on the Internet’s “wellness trail.”]

In some people’s minds, that makes San Miguel de Allende an ‘energy vortex’, like Sedona, Arizona.

Who knew?

But, back to Jack Alterman’s film tribute to San Miguel de Allende and its people titled “Allende!”  [If I pay $54.00 a year to upgrade to the Wordpress “Embed Video” service I could show it right here.  Not.]

So, you’ll have to follow this link to listen to Chelo & Chandra’s fabulous music, and see something absolutely beautiful in San Miguel de Allende.


After the rain

San Miguel de Allende can be a traffic & dust choked burb in the middle of the afternoon.  Too many days without rain and even the light-hearted will recoil at just how many particles are wafting around in the air, making you squint against the breeze and wonder how your lungs are doing?  I wind up scanning the clouds, wondering if this grey cumulus is going to bring a good scouring.

After several days of scudding clouds, the downpour came around 3:30 this afternoon.  Torrential.  Cleansing. Cooling.  Welcome.

And I went out in it!  By five I was starving, the rain had let up a good deal, and nothing in the house looked good. Without velcro on my shoes, I decided to walk to the tienda, then further to Torta Mundo on Umuran.

I held an umbrella, not so much for the rain, but for the water pouring out of the down spouts.  Most houses here are built with a flat roof, the better to have a roof top garden, so what they have are pipes (or fancy-smancy stone animals with spouts in their mouths) draining the water off the roof onto …. you.

I just came back home and stopped in my tracks inside the inner front gate.  Everything here on Quebrada is so green!

My front door is to the immediate right, just out of sight of the camera. That’s my bedroom window. The plants look so happy!


This morning I attended a lecture at La Biblioteca hosted by the Center for Global Justice.  The subject was the recent presidential election here (which I know most readers don’t care two figs about) and the direction(s) Mexico may take in the near future.

I didn’t realize how depressed I felt about the potential ‘directions’ until I came out into the sun 90 minutes later for the ever-addictive cigarette.  The ‘future’ looks so similar everywhere …. transnational corporations, with the collusion of national elites, prying countries open to get at their resources, lower the working wage, gut health & human services, roll back environmental regs …  Sound familiar? Yeah, here too.

So, I decided to learn the bus system.  Kinda.

Determined to purchase black rubber boots for my Friday shift at the Dog Pound at the cheapest place in town – Bodega Aurrora (can you say Wal-Mart?) –  I left all my anti-coporatist sympathies on the curb in front of La Bib, hopped a bus that had a sign for “Aurrora” in the front windshield, paid my five pesos (instead of the 30 a cab would have cost), and went to the Big Box on the outskirts of town. [Stop, please. Years ago I knew I was not a good activist when I realized that air conditioning in the northeast was my line in the sand – no matter how many people in Bombay were miserable in the heat, I would not give mine up.  I make no pretensions.]

During the ride my mood lifted.  A working class Mexican woman about my age sat down next to me and we joked about the wheel hump at our feet, agreeing that at our age crunching your knees up is no longer facil.  She was born in San Miguel de Allende and asked me how long I’ve been here.  I told her that I have a small pension and no longer have to work, so now I can do the work I love (we passed the dog pound – I know which bus to take Friday!), about where she lives and where I live, about her children and my nieces, about the cost of food & electric … just ‘about.’

Then she complimented me on my Spanish.

Lord, Mexicans are so generous.  You just have to try here.  That’s all.

So unlike the bastards NOB (north of the border) whining about “… if they want to live here they should learn English!”  Well yeah, probably “they” should, but it’s not so easy at our age, so offer tutoring – or something – and get over it.

Today it just took a kind woman and a torrential rain to move the clouds out of my mind.  All is well now.

After the rain.