Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Second Journey: The Streets of San Miguel
Are you aware that there is a hybrid of purple corn, and that it is known as the Hawaiian variety? From the stalks to the leaves to the kernels, all is a deep and rich mauve. When I worked for Northrup King Seed Company as a youth, I was in charge of a small plot of purple corn and it never ceased to amaze me when I came upon its glory. One gets so used to seeing corn as a green plant with yellow and white kernels.
When I returned to San Miguel on the second journey, I expected my experience to be unique but familiar. I wanted my" green corn" to be part of the landscape. However, San Miguel had undergone a great transformation since my bohemian days. For one thing, there were the cars. Cobblestone streets were built for carts and horses, not large SUV's. As I edged my way down the Salida a Queretaro in my little Focus, I mostly held my breath and kept my foot firmly planted on the brakes. When I eventually returned to the States, it was as if I carried battle wounds on my vehicle--dents and multi-colored scrapes, as well as little plastic tabs on my hubcaps to secure them from being stolen a second time. I could survive the scrapes and loss of side-view mirrors. However, the pollution of a constant flow of uncontrolled auto exhaust in el Centro was another matter. And why was I driving so much? Hadn't I imagined my return to be one of walking the streets of San Miguel, working my leg muscles into a firm transformation? Living in the Valle de Maiz, and needing to get to the Colonia de Guadalupe by 8 a.m. to teach was not without some complications. What I hadn't realized in my time away from paradise was that San Miguel was now a city with five thousand or more foreigners and ten thousand or more cars. Modernity had arrived, and though there still was the occasional desfile of burros curving their way down Barranca Street, laden with freshly cut wood, the main streets were held captive by too many cars and too little parking spaces. If this was purple corn, where then was its glory?