March 9, 2001


Book Review

Being on Mexican Time Is Often Difficult

"Over there everything is going to be
different; life is never going to be quite the
same again after your passport has been
stamped and you find yourself speechless
among the moneychangers.... It is like
starting over again ".

Graham Greene, "Another Mexico"

 

By Daniel L. Muñoz

Let's face it; life in the U.S.A. has been getting more and more stressful. The daily grind on our clogged-up freeways, on the way to and from work, is fraught with peril from drivers madden with road-rage. Shootings are common place and oftentimes you are forced off the roads and are lucky to be alive. By the time you reached your wretched home, in some ungodly tract, your nerves are stretched to the breaking point and your lungs are raw from the contamination in the air.

One comes home and looks forward to one more evening of baloney sandwiches and insipient television shows. Naturally because life is so expansive, your "helpmate" is away working to make ends meet. Your lovely day ends by you and the misses going to bed early wondering is this all there is to life? Los Angeles based novelist Tony Cohan and his artist wife Masako Takahashi finally figured it out that this was not the way they wanted to spend the rest of their lives.

In 1985, Tony and Masako Takahashi jumped into their car and took off for Central Mexico to visit friends who had long ago discovered the beauty of living in a country where their lives were not kept on American time. A few weeks in sleepy San Miguel de Allanda and they knew in their hearts that this was where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives. American time was no longer for them.

They discovered San Miguel de Allenda a beautiful town that is in a three-dimensional time warp. Where life is never in the now but is condition by the past, present, and future. San Miguel de Allanda is a town where there is always mañana. It is a town which exists in a three cultural time dimensions all at the same time; the Indigenous time of the Toltecas, Aztecas, Mayan, and the other ancient peoples, who gave to this beautiful nation the ancient Gods and cultures which to this day are still the foundations of the basic family units. Their cultures, languages, arts, science and systems of belief is still are imprinted in the modern day Mexican.

The Spanish cultural time brought the Catholic religion, which co-mingle with ancient beliefs still forms the basis for their religous beliefs, family structure and rules for the conduct of their ancient nation state. The church formed the basis of the Mexican society and is expressed in their religious celebrations, structure, and class.

Mexican Cultural time is condition by the modern day culture of the 20th century moderated by the cultural prisms through which it exits. All life exists in a three dimensional time warp that impacts on how the Mexicano views and reacts to the everyday occurrences of his daily life. Time, as we the Americanos from el Norte know it, is a single dimension experience. Our one dimensional culture leaves little room for experiencing life in any other mode except that which is conditioned by the Anglo-Europeans culture that has come to dominate our daily lives.

"On Mexican Time" explores the small victories and accommodations that had to be made in Tony's and Masako's lives as they adjusted to the land of mañana: The sounds of the Church bells announcing the church services; The tastes and aroma of tortillas being made in the early dawn along with the beans, corn, and mole; The colorful rituals that are a highlight of the every day life of the local people; the clean air, refreshing daily rains: and the daily chatter of the local town peoples.

They learned how to accommodate themselves to the many holidays, rituals and celebrations that marked the every day life of the people. They discovered that life is acceptable without a hospital, a Currandera is well enough. Que sera ...sera ...It is God's wish! Cars are something that is not needed. One is only one or two blocks from the market place. On market day one shops and buys for all their needs plus visit and see old friends. There is no hurry... There is always mañana.

San Miguel de Allenda was the cradle of Mexican Independence. It was the site where the Cura Hidalgo y Castillo delivered his famous "Grito de Independencia" from the balcony of the local Catholic Church that galvanized the people to fight for their Independence from the Spanish Crown.

As Tony and Masuko discovered even slow moving streams and creeks can sometimes be galvanized to furious action. But for the present ...Don't worry Compadres, our pueblo often slumbers and life for its residents runs "ON MEXICAN TIME".

Rating: A delightful book in which writer Tony Cohan has captured the essence of the Mexican people and their way of life. Tony and his wife Masako now spend the majority of their time in San Miguel de Allanda where they get their inspirations for writing and painting.

Title: On Mexican Time
A new Life in San Miguel
ISBN 0-7679-0319-6
PP 289 soft cover
Published By: Broadway Books
A division of Bantam Doubleday Dell
1540 Broadway NY, NY 10036
US $14.00

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