So… Here I am… back again… in a place where women carry baskets of food on their heads. Where the main talk of the men is fishing, and I can stroll down to the wharf any morning, and buy a fresh fish for two bucks. Where pelicans stretch their necks, and crash insanely into the ruffled waters of the cove… then perch on the gunwales of the anchored fishing boats, to dry their wings. Where the greasy smoke from broiling lobsters and shrimp, wafts through the streets at dusk. It’s Ernest Hemingway time… but he’s dead, and this is still here, if you search hard enough to find it.
They aren’t gonna send you here on a tour, to a homemade hotel, where you rent an ocean view room for nine bucks a night. And go fishing with the son of the owner, who built the place by hand over 20 patient years. We caught two twenty-pound Dorado this morning, Alvaro and me. The fish running and charging and leaping in backwards somersaults, over the sparkling blue water.
Dorado means golden, for the spectacular green-gold color of these dolphin fish, that hunt the mackerel in packs. We went far out on the Pacific in our little outboard motor boat, but the sea was a desert. So we came back in close to shore, and stumbled on the Fishermen’s Wet Dream. Thousands of birds smacking the water, atop thousands of silvery baitfish, that are driven up, from below, by the mackerel. So they’re trapped at the surface. And deeper yet in the clear blue water, shooting golden arrows of Dorados, exploiting the mayhem. Picking off unwary and crippled fish here and there.
Twenty years ago I smashed my ankle, slipping on Dorado blood and slime, on a boat off Pompano Beach Florida. Wrecked my ankle and my marriage at the same time. Once I couldn’t work like a mule, what did she need ME for? I’ve often said that my wife divorced me when I bought her an electric garage door opener… But this time we are careful to clean up the blood and slime after each fish we gaff, and beat on the head, and fling, thashing, onto the floor of the boat.
We fish from six to ten in the morning. That’s enough. That’s when the wind comes up and the waves get rough. So I take a long siesta, then go down to sit by the water and write. Right now I’m watching eight Mexican kids play volley ball on the beach… with NO volleyball net. They’ve got a ball but no net. No net. No problem. They just IMAGINE where the net is supposed to be, and give it a go any way. Works pretty well too. That’s one of the things I love about Mexicans. They have fully functioning imaginations. They know how to IMAGINE something into existence. It’s like they discovered quantum physics three thousand years ago. Of the infinite possible waveforms for a volleyball net, that exist throughout the universe, they simply collapsed, one, volleyball net waveform, here – inside their group mind, on the beach.
In the market I see wheelbarrows of avocadoes and oranges and bananas. Women standing by buckets of fish, chopping them up with meat cleavers. Snappers and jacks and tuna and a big silvery blue Spanish mackerel. I spied a baby snook, and I bought it. Couldn’t believe it. SHOULD be illegal. Too small to kill. A snook is the best tasting tropical fish there is, and gets to be five feet long and 50 pounds, but this one was less than a foot, and less than a pound. I SHOULDn’t have bought it. Must’ve been caught by barefoot kids paddling around in the mangrove lagoons, instead of going to school. And of course, the snook tasted sublime.
I’m living in a second story apartment that has no walls, only knee walls on three sides. I’m shaded by a mango tree, but my view of the hills around the harbor is blocked by the tops of the coconut trees, between me and the road below. I can almost reach out from my porch with a broom, and knock down coconuts, they’re so close. But the mosquitoes are brutal. Gotta have a mosquito net at night, and even a fan pointed at my feet in the evening, to blow the bastards away. But my little house is only 120 bucks a month, and I have a big porch for writing and painting. And Gracias a Dios, I’m NOT living in my car, THIS winter.
However the water has been off in the entire village for four days. And it’s not an accident. The electric company shut off the power to the water commission, because the water commission honchos have been pocketing the money they collect from water bills, and not paying the power bill. So the electric company shut off the power, and apparently the municipal water pumps don’t work.
This house, however, is built over a cement cistern, where about five days worth of water is stored, specifically to outlast just such problems. We can only bath and wash dishes quickly, but it’s OK for awhile. You would think the water commission would have back-up diesel generators for such eventualities, but no. Each individual house has to build its own emergency water storage system.
The hardest thing to get used to here is the goddam noise. There are no windows… anywhere… you either got screens, or nothing. The staccato bleating of TV game shows, soccer games, and horrible Spanish pop music, where someone is losing his fucking Corazon every two minutes, suffocates the air between the houses, on the weekends, and most weeknights. And as soon as the amplified sounds go off at night, the dogs begin. Guttural, murderous, howling, growling… screaming at each other from ridge to valley. Hundreds of insanely barking dogs. Threatening to tear their rival’s throats out.
[record dogs barking]
They stop around 2 am. Thank god… Then the roosters start. Same macho crap, only birds this time, threatening to rip the hearts from their feathered enemies on the next block, for four hours… until the sun comes up, and the REAL birds start in, chirping and tweeting and reeling off stunning melodies… and the audio landscape becomes pleasant again. For a half hour, until the trucks and motorbikes start.
There are several good reasons to get up early in the tropics, and one of the best is simply to cease tossing and flipping and cursing, because of the insane screaming of animals. Ear plugs are a life saver. Actually, I learn to block out the animals after a week or two. But TV is not so easy. God I hate TV.
This morning I was eating leftover beans and rice… [oh, I forgot to say, I have a stove but no refrigerator, which means I have to reheat all my food morning, noon and night to keep it from spoiling. Actually there IS a refrigerator here, but of course it doesn’t work. It makes a lot of noise and doesn’t do anything, like most of the people I’ve met so far. Just some kind of fancy kitchen furniture. I leave the door open and keep my powdered milk and veggies inside, on the shelves.]… ANYway, I was eating leftovers when I heard the imperial, foot-thumping march of soldiers ON my street. WHAT? But it turned out only to be girls waving flags to the beat of some tinny taco music, marching in circles and performing goofy maneuvers. Like military cheerleaders or something. I guess that’s how they achieve such regimentation in the ranks of the Mexican Indians here… Just kidding. In truth, the Oaxacan Indians have revolted against any and all forms of authority for 2000 years. There are 29 languages in Oaxaca, and 28 of them are Indian. Oaxaca is where the ancient people came, to escape the human sacrifice, of the Aztec priests, to the north, in Mexico City, AND, to escape the human sacrifice, of the Mayan priests, to the south, and east, in Guatemala and the Yucatan. Oaxacans have never liked rulers. History and archaeology are always studying the ruins of the BIG civilizations. Who gives a fuck? It’s these village people who live thousands of years longer than Aztecs or Mayans or Egyptians. So the murderous priests invented astronomy. Who cares? These sweaty brown peasants invented tomatoes. And corn and beans and potatoes. Which would YOU rather have?
A couple years ago the teachers went on strike in Oaxaca, and uh couple uh them got shot down by cops… Massive riots, closing down the main highways by burning tires in the middle of the roads. And the unrest has continued for a couple years. Tourists are afraid to come here, which is fine with me. In fact, the civil disobedience is one of the main reasons I decided to come back here. I FULLY support the strikers, and their attempts to keep free market privatization, and multinational corporate capitalism, OUT of here… and to eject the greedy, corrupt politicians who take payoffs to let the multinationals in.
Ya see, in America the people are afraid of the government. In most of the rest of the world, the governments are afraid of the people. France, Germany, Latin America. When the people take to the streets any government can be brought down. Even one, that’s pushing an insane war. Americans don’t know this, but everyone else in the world DOES.
Mexicans ARE Indians. The English colonizers in North America MURdered the natives. The Spanish MARried them, and converted them to Catholicism. Spaniards are often criticized for their, quote, “hypocrisy”. But Spanish hypocrisy was a good sight better than British murder.
Mexico IS Indians. Mexico MEANS Indian culture. It’s as if the Lakota Sioux were never driven onto reservations, and still ran the state governments of North and South Dakota. You want Indians? Corn and beans and roasted iguanas, and a worm in your tequila? You want real Indians? You got Mexico.
There’s a guy who pushes a small cart through the streets at night making a periodic high pitched steam whistle sound. He has burning charcoal glowing inside the cart, and he sells SOMEthing. I gotta find out what. [roasted bananas and evaporated milk]
My problem here is gonna be the people. They’re not nice at all. The seascape is spectacular. But the people suck. And it’s worse this time than last time. Keeping in mind that last time, someone snuck into my room at night, and stole my briefcase, with all my money and credit cards and kids photos inside. And that “someone” was probably the son of the senora who rented us the house in the FIRST place.
The people here are flinty, greedy, suspicious, and falsely arrogant, in the way of deeply shamed people. They want tourist dollars, but not tourists. And especially not North Americans. Germans and Italians yes, Americans no. This is a place that once had lots of tourists, and now has very few. Lots of folks are avoiding the State of Oaxaca because of the revolutionary activity of the teachers union, far from here, up in the mountains in Oaxaca City. But lack of tourist dollars, isn’t the only thing going on with these locals. Like I said, last time, all my stuff got stolen.
And…My feelings were just hurt by my old fishing buddy Niko. I’ve known him for 15 years. Over that time I’ve given him hundreds of dollars worth of fishing and diving equipment. He asked me if I wanted to go fishing the other morning. And he also said I would not have to buy gas. Unless I wanted to go trolling. I said, No. I didn’t want to go. But he pushed and pushed so I said, “OK, but I’m not paying for gas.” The reason being that the last time I paid for gas, he screwed me by fishing two hours instead of four, and keeping the rest of the gas. Niko said, “Don’t worry, no gasolina. Tengo gasolina, I have gas.” So… I woke up at five, walked down the hill on my damaged, aching knee, arrived at ten to 6, the appointed time, and he and his boat were already LONG gone. Saw him come back two hours later with some other local asshole in the boat and one small fish. Fuck him.
Gloria, 30 year expatriate, and hippie hostel owner down here, told me, “To them you’re just a walking wallet.” I said, “I bet if I collapsed in the gutter they’d charge me five bucks to help me up.” “NO,” she said. “They’d go through all your pockets, and then leave you for dead… No, I got one better,” sez Gloria. “I supply the lifeguards here with free life saving equipment. Fins, masks, surfboards. Whatever they need. When a tourist is drowning those lifeguards race out to him, this flailing panicked guy, stop right in front of him, and say, “You know this’ll cost you a hundred pesos.”
Fuck. [RG groan]
Talk about disaster capitalism. This is IT, in its native American form. Sign these Indians up for the Milton Friedman School of Greed and Suffering. Someone’s dying, how can I profit from it?
How would you like it if you were in a car crash and the ambulance driver drove up, and rolled down his window, and said: Hey. I’ll take ya to the hospital for 500 bucks.
The only poor people who want capitalism are the ones who don’t understand what it is. For anything important, people want socialism. Government ambulances and life guards. Government firemen and cops. People before profit. Not: “This is gonna cost ya a hundred pesos.”