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A Memorable Visit

After our visit to the veterinary school at UNAM, I called Dra. Aline. She didn’t exactly remember me but I suggested I should pay her a visit and she immediately demonstrated the gracious hospitality I remember her for, and invited me to come for a visit and stay for la comida (the major late afternoon meal). She said she would be out of town for a few days so we arranged for me to come to her home on Wednesday. Wednesday came, but Alexis was under the weather, so I went to visit the Doctora on my own. Her house, built by her father just after World War II, was as I remembered it, a beautiful, Spanish hacienda, quiet solitude in the middle of a very busy, and noisy city. Here’s a photo of her living room:

When I arrived, she was still resting from her trip to Puebla, and another place that I didn’t catch the name of, where she went to attend the livestock markets. She is on a mission to convince the Mexican people that if they treat their livestock in a more humane manner, the health of the animals, and indeed, the quality of the meat, will improve. She explained that it was difficult to change the attitudes of the farmers and ranchers towards livestock, but she is so well respected by the veterinary profession, and so persistent with her message and with government authorities, some progress has been made. In Puebla, she told me, ramps have been installed for unloading and loading the animals, instead of forcing them to jump into and out of the trucks. “But,” she told me, “except for people who own pets in the big cities, the general attitude is to physically force animals to do what you want them to. You also see many stray dogs and cats in the streets of the cities, as well as in the countryside.” We certainly saw more homeless dogs than homeless people as we moved about.

We had a great visit and despite my beard she recognized and remembered me, especially after we spoke of a study we did, before the Olympic Games, to evaluate the effects of the Mexico City altitude on horses brought here for the equestrian events. She was pleased when I told her the article we published with the results of that study are still referenced, now and then. We reminisced about my FAO colleagues and the effect that project had on veterinary education at UNAM. The results were not immediate, but she feels our efforts may have hastened many changes that have taken place over the past 50 years.

At age 97, she told me she was born in 1920, she is remarkably lucid and mentally agile. If I live that long I hope I can match her.  She lives alone, except for a very dedicated and solicitous housekeeper/ cook, who also has day help to keep up the house. Doctora also employs a man who takes care of any necessary home repairs, the garden, and drives her where she needs to go. Her dedication to animal welfare is what keeps her active and focused.

Tomorrow morning, we return to Seattle. The trip has been extremely worthwhile for me. I hope Alexis has enjoyed my pleasure in revisiting all the places I remember. Our Airbnb hosts, Thomas Friedman and Juan Carlos Luna Vaszquez, have made everything easy for us. They are always helpful and concerned that we do everything we want to do as easily as possible. The apartment in this historic house has served us extremely well. The house is located on Avenida Yucatan #16, in the heart of Roma Norte and we were able to explore widely on foot. Alexis feels she has to walk at least 3 hours a day for exercise, and although she had to reduce her pace for me to keep up, I managed to stay with her, mostly because she keeps stopping to inspect anything that catches her interest.

Part of the wonder of Mexico is the public art. The photo below shows blow-up stills from famous movies. The display lines the walk next to Paseo Reforma as that famous street winds its way through Chapultepec Park.

The next photo shows blow-ups of artifacts recovered from the Templo Mayor excavations in the Zocalo of the historic district. Art and culture are everywhere.


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