San Miguel de Allende: The Fall

Don’t you know that people don’t walk on the sidewalks or in the street in San Miguel de Allende!” Roger joked when he learned I’d taken a nasty fall Thursday night.

SMA road

Because of uneven sidewalks and roadways, ex-pats talk about falling a lot in San Miguel.  I’d been so proud of myself celebrating the one year mark without taking a tumble – never walking anywhere without consciously reminding myself to watch it, spread my toes flat in my shoes, step around slick spots, etc.  But, combine wine at dinner with Mary and David with a late night sprint to catch a cab and my record’s been broken.

Gawd it hurts to fall when you’re old. I’ve got the scraped knees, abraided palms, and split lip to prove it. The worst part was losing my glasses.  Nothing broken.  Skin will repair itself, but replacing my glasses will be pricey.



I’ve been wondering if San Miguel is the Venice of Mexico? Not the canal part of course, but the holiday and wedding part. On my first (train) trip to Venice my Italian company informed me that ‘everybody in Italy’ wanted to get married in Venice. My Mexican neighbors have told me many times, voices bursting with pride, that ‘everybody in Mexico’ wants to visit San Miguel.  My dentist subscribes to society magazines where a bunch of weddings in San Miguel are strategically featured in center spreads. We already know that people flock here for the traditional festivities, of which it’s said that San Miguel has more than any other place in Mexico. That seals it for me.

el jardin at dusk

el jardin at dusk


Bad news for “She Who Smiles” this week.

I be smilin' right now cuz I a happy girl!


When Mia first came in October I noticed she had a limp in her right front leg.  I thought it might be a sprain from playing. Veterinarian Danny Cox physically examined her a few weeks later and concluded it was probably just a muscle pull. And the limp went away on its own.

But a couple of weeks ago when the rains started, the limp reappeared.  Same leg, same limp. This time Gabrielle and I took Mia to Dr. Alma for an x-ray. What we learned is sad news indeed. Because of malnutrition as a puppy, Mi’s bones are not strong. She will need to take doggie arthritis medicine – probably for the rest of her life.

My time of fostering her is coming to an end.  Now we must find a person willing to take a dog with a disability. “If they only knew her like I know her,” I cry inside.



I’m busy pulling it together to make the schlep back to the U.S.  Now working with scraped knees and a split lip.

‘This too shall pass,’ I tell myself, but some days are longer than others.




Eva’s hair, The Contest, Mia

braids EvaI have two nieces in the States who are half-Guatemalan on their Dad’s side.  Eva, the eldest, inherited her father’s thick, glossy black hair. Wherever I go in San Miguel I’m surrounded by women and girls with Eva’s hair.  And, because so many Mexican women keep their hair long, I’m surrounded by some of the most fabulous braids on earth.

It can be fancy-dancy dress-up braiding for special occasions,


but mostly it’s a unique braid that Mom wove in her daughter’s hair, or a creative twist a young woman has woven for her self.


I’m endlessly fascinated by the iterations on the braid here, though I guess I shouldn’t be. Mexicans are justly famous for their weaving. What a delight.


Which is useful when I’m riding buses back and forth to the health clinic in La Lejona, or up to Hospital General in Colonia Ignacio Ramirez. I  now study braiding and wonder how weird people would think I am if I start taking pictures?

Seguro Popular is “testing, testing, testing”  for my medical mystery, but it’s a bit of a process. For example last week the clinic referred to me an Internist at the hospital.  I saw her on Sunday, June 9 and she ordered a complete blood test.  I went back to the lab at the hospital today, stood in line behind 27 people (yes, I count them), to receive my appointment to come back to take the tests.  The tests will be done on June 26 and I’ll have to return to pick up the results.  Then I’ll see the Internist again on June 29.

I’m grateful for the tests of course, all of which are being done at no cost to me. It’s likely though that some American doctor is going to have to get her Espanol on to interpret them, because it looks like I’m heading back to U.S. towards the end of July.  One of my nieces is facing a serious operation.  I want to be in Seattle to hold her hand.

Which brings me to The Contest.


I’m of many minds regarding returning to the U.S.


Like so many of my generation, I’m a prisoner to health care and Medicare lives the States.

If I’m not saying this clearly enough, I’m a boomer with no money.

Immediate hat tip to Gabrielle who calls this “Positive Poverty.” You see, we’re trying not to wage slave until the grave – god, that has a ring to it, doesn’t it? The deal is: return to the U.S. and get in line for the fraying safety net. (I’m laughing bitterly to myself as I type this – you just can’t hear it.)

Soooooo …. if you want to follow my meanderings, I’ll have to rename this blog.


Just kidding.  You won’t win a gosh darn thing, but if you want to make suggestions – feel free!


I’ve been tossing around:

Back to the Belly of the Beast

The Bag Lady Chronicles

[For interested peeps, Paula Deen just founded The Bag Lady Foundation.]

Thanks for All the Fish

 … I know. Copyright problems.

The Ice Flow Papers


Jax in Looneyville

… though that won’t work because it’s a town in West Virginia.

Oh.  So you think I should be more upbeat, do you?

That’s why YOU’RE invited for submissions.


Sadly I’ll have to give up fostering Mia, ‘the Manchurian Princess’ or ‘The Dog Who Smiles When You Return.’

If you’re reading in San Miguel, please give a thought to fostering this girl.  I can tell you ALL about her!

I be smilin' right now cuz I a happy girl!

I be smilin’ right now cuz I a happy girl!

Have your people call my people, k?

$1.19 USD per hour

I went to Hospital General in San Miguel for an ultrasound of my kidneys this morning.  Hospital General is the public hospital.

Hospital SMAThe whole thing took about an hour including waiting for my results – which were normal. There was a *huge* group of people waiting for various services, so I people-watched. I was thinking about a comment an acquaintance here made a couple of days ago to the effect that Hospital General provides basic services primarily for campesinos. The first part is true, but the second part about campesinos is only partially so.

My understanding of the word ‘campesino’ is that it generally refers to the rural poor. Most of the people I saw this morning looked like average San Miguelese.  Apparently Aeropostale has the lock on t-shirts, rhinestone studded jeans, and hoodies down here, so young women and men wait in the dress code of the day. A smattering of guys in cowboy outfits and a lot of older women with rebozos draped over the heads inch up as lines move.

The young of Mexico look a lot like their American/global counterparts. I guess it may say 'Aeropostale', but most likely it's made in China.

The young of Mexico look a lot like their American/global counterparts. I guess it may say ‘Aeropostale’, but most likely it’s made in China.

ranchero clothing

The ranchero look. It can get quite spiffy in San Miguel.


The ubiquitous rebozo, some of which are quite beautiful.

There were quite a few smartly dressed ‘office’ people too. In other words, a cross-section of San Miguelese, all of whom are relying on Mexico’s national health care program, Seguro Popular, for medicine. Yes. Once again I was the only NorteAmericana there.

Thankfully Mexico has Seguro Popular, but why is the average person in San Miguel waiting in long lines for tests and procedures? After all, so many expats trumpet the fabulous medical care available in Mexico which they, in their munificence, are able to self-pay.  Why can’t the average San Miguelese save themselves half a day and do that too?

Probably because Mexico’s average wage is now lower than the wages in China.–finance.html

When it comes to the corporate giants in Mexico like Walmart, KFC, McDonalds, OXXO, El Globo etc, Mexican investigative journalists recently went undercover to discover that service workers here “may” make $1.19 US per hour.

Let’s just take McDonalds.

“For a general employee of McDonald’s – who works as a cashier, cleaning, or in the kitchen – days are 10 hours long with 30 minutes for eating, and a day of rest that can be negotiated with the manager. Employment includes attending to the orders of the clients, cleaning and other activities, with a salary of around $244 a month.”

Link later.


And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a job. In most of Mexico’s southern states up to 80% of people work in the informal economy. Plenty of people in San Miguel work there too.  They’re the guys with furniture on their backs walking up my street in Colonial Allende hoping for a sale.  The women whose children tap on the gate to see if I’d like tacos.  The elderly hawking nopales and flowers from the campo.

That’s why “El Financero” titled it’s investigative reporting “Mexico Lives to Work”.

And it’s worse in the Central American countries south of Mexico. While illegal immigration to the U.S. has dropped for Mexicans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans and El Salvadorans continue to swarm up through Mexico in a race for the border.  They are preyed upon every step of the way.


There is a great deal of talk south of the border about the southern tier rising. It means that industrialization is coming to South America while North America and Europe fade. The financial elites are hyperbolically happy about this as they switch their bets to countries like Mexico which, if you look at its wage structure, is pretty much starting from ground zero.

But, where’s the end game in all of this?  Does anybody think that the average wage in Mexico is going to rise?  Won’t it be pushed down further until at long last global capital gets over its squeamishness and industrializes Africa?


Come on people. This is affecting everyone’s living.

We are all drowning here.

drowning man















The Woman in the Red Dress

At a time when we are saturated by images, I’m not sure why I’m so struck by “The Woman in the Red Dress.”

woman in the red dress TurkeyShe is being tear gassed at Tuesday’s protests in Istanbul.

Overnight she’s become a Turkish icon.  Her photographs – there is a series where she seems to wander unknowingly towards the police line – are being made into posters and pasted on walls around the country. She has become a symbol for the women protesting in Istanbul.

And she is now an Internet meme.  “The Woman in Red” has gone viral, representing a peaceful protester and a brutal police reaction.

Maybe I’m struck because of her beauty.  I can’t see her face, but there’s something in the way she’s dressed, and in the way she turns her body, that reminds me of this photograph:

Italian woman walkingBoth simply young women caught in a hostile world.

And both compelling to me.

In the case of “The Woman in Red”, I’m happy to share the meme.


You’re welcome.