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The yellow bird with black wings flies past our patio here on the Mexican west coast. The now dry jungle crowds to the edge of the ocean and a few miles back in the hills the squatters eke out a living. Their meager fields host skinny goats and cows, a few stalks of maize and slight banana trees.
In town, the familiar market has finally started to feel the loss of regular customers, another victim of the magnetic pull of the vast box store, its voluminous shelves stacked toward the sky with all the trappings of modern life even though many of the habitants live in the hills without adequate power and water.
The nacionales come to the store and wander through much like visitors to Disney World. They are primarily on a vicarious visit as the prices for flat screen TVs and audio systems are far from their ability to pay. Still, on incomes thin, many huts and hovels shielded from the rains and sun by corrugated sheet metal sport satellite dishes so they can remain connected to the wider world and not just the third world that surrounds them. At some point they also will be pulled into the black hole of hand-held electronics and stay in touch with the wealthier people in Mexico City and beyond, the lives of those who only matter to the lonely, the friended and the beautiful.
The people eke out a living yet will be convinced to spend their pesos on hand-held devices like all the rest of the world that has already given in to the addiction of the internet.
In the parking lot of that store a number of years ago an escaped bull pranced about the shoppers. It had escaped from the corral of the small nearby bull ring and it was confused by the sudden freedom and then sudden entrapment by vehicles and buses and shopping carts. It was trapped in a bygone time. In those days there were no fences to keep penniless vagrants from intruding. The bull ran off toward the river where a small encampment of people lived just upstream from the highway bridge.
That time of colliding worlds is fast disappearing, even in many parts of Mexico.
The other day we walked a road out of the city and up a river. As we moved upriver into easily visible income disparity chickens and dogs and cats were at peace with each other. Cats didn’t eat chickens. Neighborhoods gave way to huts perched on the hillsides but before we left the sidewalks, there was a child in a wheelchair, missing a leg, pushing his wheelchair in reverse. He had his arm over the back of his wheelchair like he was driving his convertible up a driveway to pick up his girlfriend. He was in a good mood. All the people were in a good mood. There were no cell phones or hand-held devices. Yes, there were a few satellite dishes pulling in the wider world of excess but in this little valley, people seemed to be in a mood where they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, eh, that whole thing out there doesn’t matter. This matters. My family matters. The neighborhood matters.
We travelled farther up the valley. There were more skinny goats and cows. And then there were no satellite dishes at all. In this world, no neighborhood is out of reach of the satellite. It seemed that at some point the satellite didn’t matter. They didn’t need to know what the rest of the world was up to.
But every year that point at which the world didn’t matter was going deeper into the valley, farther up the mountain.
Some day it would extend all the way up to the mountaintop.
It still wouldn’t matter.
But it would extend all the way up and over the mountain top and down the other side.
Some day soon.