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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico City’

Defender of the Texas Frontier

Gross’ (A Mexican Adventure, 2017, etc.) latest historical novel traces the formation and adventures of the Texas Rangers during the Mexican War, under the leadership of a bold young man from Tennessee.

The narrative opens in 1836 with two adventure-seeking 19-year-olds, John Caperton and John Coffee “Jack” Hays, having drinks at a bar in Nacogdoches in the Republic of Texas. They’ve been friends since they were young boys learning how to “live rough” in Tennessee; now they’ve joined a volunteer force to fight the Mexican Army. Before they go, Big Al Cranston, the town bully, threatens to punch Jack for smiling, and Jack shoots the man dead before he can even throw a punch. Caperton acts as a narrator as Gross stitches together the events leading up to the Mexican War, highlighting Jack and an ensemble of real and imaginary characters. Readers tag along on a mission to Goliad to scout for enemy soldiers in advance of Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk’s army, and get an account of the Battle of Coleto, in which more than 400 Texan soldiers, after surrendering, are massacred by the Mexican army. Similar vignettes offer detailed descriptions of Comanche culture, military aggression, and diplomacy with other Native American nations. By 1845, when Texas applies for statehood, Jack’s regiment of scouts is known as Hays’ Texas Rangers and plays an important role in securing the Texas border during the battles at Painted Rock and Monterrey. Gross’ novel is loaded with intriguing period detail, such as how Comanche hunters use every part of a slain buffalo except the heart, which, as war chief Buffalo Hump explains, “is left to show the Creator of all things that our people are not greedy.” The plethora of names and locations detracts from the action and may occasionally leave readers confused about the time and place of particular events. Although the character development is minimal, except for Hays’, Gross’ descriptions consistently offer vivid imagery: “Our silent, measured, advance frustrated the war chief. He rode back and forth in front of his warriors, shouting at us.”

An engaging fictionalized review of the fight for Texas that should resonate with history buffs.

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We just returned from the scenic mountain city of Taxco. Alexis wanted some unique jewelry made and I was able to convince her we would be able to find a silversmith in that town, renowned for silversmiths. So off to Taxco, a little over a hundred miles from here. For some reason, Uber was down that morning, so we took a taxi, plenty to choose from passing our Airbnb. The taxi took us to Terminal Centrale de Autobuses, about $2.50 for a twenty-minute ride. My Spanish was good enough to purchase two tickets, sitting together, on a first-class bus to Taxco. We only had to wait about a half-hour, they run about every hour. The bus was very clean, had restrooms, TV showing a movie, and the seats had significantly more leg room and were larger and more comfortable than we had on the airplane to get here. The ride was about two and a half hours, and the cost was about $5 a ticket. Next another taxi ride through the narrow, winding, cobble-stone streets of Taxco and up a steep, mountain road, at least a mile-long, paved with black cobble stones. Our driver said the road was built, and the cobble stones placed, by manual labor using hand tools. Another $2.50 taxi ride to the Montetaxco hotel with a stunning view of Taxco below us.

 

 

Nice pool but we came for only one night with small backpacks, no swim suits.

 

After I asked several people for recommendations for a silversmith, we walked, no more than a hundred yards from the hotel, down a different steep cobble stone road, to the plateria (silver factory) of Antonio Arce. He was not only well-known, he was very friendly and helpful. Alexis showed him exactly what she wanted, two pendants, one in gold-plated silver, the other in solid silver. She also had a design for two bracelets, again gold-plated and solid silver. How fast, I asked? Antonio said he would have everything ready for us less than twenty-four hours later. The total cost was four thousand pesos, about two hundred dollars. Alexis estimates those items would have cost at least two thousand dollars in the U.S., if she could find someone to make them to her exact specs. They would certainly not get done overnight. Senor Arce had them waiting for us the next day and they were exactly as she wanted.

While wandering Mexico City a few days ago we stopped at a bookstore where I made a small purchase, and we had coffee in their coffee shop. We have seen these short coat-racks in several restaurants. They put them next to your table to hang a coat (mine would drag the floor), or your purse or backpack (mine is the backpack hanging). The sign says; “Don’t forget to watch your belongings”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel ran a cable car down the mountain into town for $5 a person, round-trip. Here’s a view from the cable car:

While strolling through the town we spotted this dog standing guard over the street from the roof of his house:


 

 

There are a lot of dogs running loose in Taxco, but also many on leashes and behind fences. We have yet to encounter a vicious attitude amongst them, even the pit bull-mixes that are common. Perhaps a manifestation of the friendly, calm, nature of the people? Another note, despite the large numbers of dogs everywhere we’ve been, we have only seen one pile of dog feces on the sidewalks, much different than in another city I love, Amsterdam.

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I leased my practice in Phoenix and moved my family to Mexico City after accepting a one-year appointment with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. FAO was operating a project with the veterinary school at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The purpose of the project was to aid the college in upgrading their programs. My job was to help establish an ambulatory clinic to give the students hands-on experience diagnosing and treating animals on the farm.

While visiting a small community a group of students and I diagnosed a mule with tetanus. It was a textbook case and I decided that as many students as possible should be able to have the experience of observing and treating the animal. I explained to the owner, in my rudimentary Spanish, that the prognosis was very poor but that I would like to arrange to move the mule to the veterinary hospital to give as many students as possible experience with this kind of case. I was careful to explain that since the case was valuable as a teaching tool he would only be responsible for the cost of the drugs used and then only if the animal recovered enough to work again.

He agreed to the arrangement and I arranged transport for the mule to the veterinary teaching hospital at the university. Various groups of students assigned to the case treated it under my supervision for over three weeks. At one point, we had to put him in a sling because he was unable to stand on his own, but he made a miraculous recovery. It was extremely unusual for an animal with tetanus to recover in 1967. I arranged to transport the mule back to the owner the next time we went to the village where he lived.

I explained to the owner how to care for the mule until he fully recovered and handed him a bill for five-hundred pesos, about forty dollars, a small fraction of the cost of all the drugs we used in the treatment. I explained that I had substantially reduced the bill by charging for only a fraction of the drugs we had used because so many students had benefited by working on the case.

“But Senor Medico you say me I would not have to pay if the mule could not work. You see he is very weak, he cannot work.” He was speaking in elementary school Spanish so I could understand.

“I understand,” I said. “He will recover and when he does you will accept this obligation, true?” I fully understood that the poor farmer probably only earned twenty-five pesos a day, maybe less and five-hundred pesos was a fortune to him, but the mule was worth at least a thousand or more pesos.

Two months passed and we visited that village three or four times. Each time the farmer took pains to seek me out and explain that the mule was still too weak to work. I told him I understood and smiled to myself.

Three new students were with me in the truck a few weeks after my last conversation with the mule’s owner. As we drove past the village, I saw my man out in a field plowing with the mule. I stopped the truck.

“Now you will experience the practical side of veterinary medicine,” I told them and related the story. All of them knew about the mule and were amused that I had been unable to collect the bill, interested to see how I would handle the situation.

“Buenos dias,” I greeted my client.

“Muy buenos dias Sr. Medico,” he replied.

“I see the mule is fully recovered and working well.”

“Si senor, but it was not your medicine.”

“Oh?”

“You see the leather thong on his left front fetlock?”

“Yes.”

“A curer in the market at San Angel sold me that. It is treated with many special cures (mostly urine my students explained later) and the curer said me it would make the mule completely recover if I tied it around his left front fetlock.”

“What if you tied it around his right fetlock?” I asked.

“He said me it would only function if I did it properly and with the correct knot he showed me.”

“And it obviously worked,” I smiled.

“As you see, the very next morning he was cured.”

I turned to the students.

“Today’s lesson is to never believe you are smarter than your clients.”

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