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Sep 11, 2003, 8:28 PM

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Re: ["El Gringo Jalapeño"] Xalapa, the good, the bad and the ugly

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Here's a minus, Roy. I teamed up for a trip with an old college friend. We two guys were advised by a number of various locals to be careful, especially around the zocalo area after 9 PM or so. And also not to go down to the lower city level below the zocalo after dark. Yet often the same people would say that Xalapa is not a very dangerous place and that the people are very friendly.

You ought to clarify if you want to include well known satellite towns like Coatepec and Xico in this conversation. My understanding is that a lot of people from uddles of surrounding villages out as much as 1 to 2 hours bus time work in Xalapa and return to a house they maintain in the village for the weekends. Also a lot of young working age people who return to their parental homes for weekends. So Xalapa to me includes a big area.

Now here is a tangential village story: I ran into a drunk 18 year old muchacho in the village who wanted to talk to me late one night. He was dressed like any with it city inner kid in the USA....... attempting to show off his worldly sophistication, he was talking black ghetto English, and had black ghetto body language. He had returned to the village after a few years in Chicago. then he tried to hit me up for 2 American dollars - but this was the village not Chicago, and I had no need to buy my safety down to the next block. He was too young and too impressionable to be away from home, family and village at whatever age he had left. As a result Mexico sent away sent away probably a decent kid and imported back a weird anomaly of a social problem. I explained his sub-culturalization to my village friends. There is not much you can do about this, and certainly it exists all over Mexico.

In Papantla I ran into a couple of young state employed agricultural experts whose job it was to help the vanilla growers with expertise, and more importantly to help them develop better international markets and even quality control. It was very impressive. Coffee needs the same effort, on a bigger scale. Andres’ father in the village of Y is getting 1 and 1/10 pesos a kilo for coffee he picked off his own trees while the supermarket in the USA is charging $7/lb for midrange coffee beans.

Veracruz has some world class products – music included being among them. Moreover, it is exotically beautiful. There is very good reason why the hearts of the Veracruzanos up north dream of their homeland. It is beautiful and green, the food tastes great, and the music is plentiful and good.

Don’t forget that people can apparently sign up for morning exercise programs at the stadium about a 10 minute walk down below you studio. The atmosphere down there seemed very public spirited.

The whole area is very rich archeologically. But you are in danger of rapidly losing some of your indigenous culture. Villages that spoke no Spanish in the 1930’s now have only a few older people left that can speak Totonac. The state made a big mistake last March when they made the whole of El Tajin into a heavily wired up Hollywood style stage set for a rock concert with all the screwy lighting effects. Tell them not to do that anymore.

(This post was edited by TomG on Sep 11, 2003, 9:28 PM)

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