We have just returned, yesterday, from our little fraidy-hole in the outback. We were out for almost a month, and all-in-all, things went well and progress was made. The negative? There were troubling incidents, including a grenade having been thrown at the main entrance of the Governor's Palace in Cd. Victoria. There were casualties, one dead and four wounded...all staff people of the Governor's Office who were standing around outside waiting for assignments. Most were drivers of vehicles assigned to various dependencies of the State government.
While the downtick of the overall cartel violence has been remarkable as opposed to two and three years ago, there are still strides to be taken and offensives to be maintained. There is some irony in the fact that, with so much degradation and cannibalism having been visited upon the cartel activity the fragmented elements, without leadership, essentially become more cannibalistic and more violent. Still, almost all of the violence, which is substantially less, is conducted within the groups themselves, or at rival groups.
The "pandillas" (gangs) are erratic, changing loyalties frequently and also behaving in self-defeating ways that leave the observer scratching his head. Their activities along the border and hereabouts...(Yes, Virginia, there is and has been substantial "spill-over" violence here for decades)....would bring to mind something that would have to be named "Keystone Kartels".
More to the other points, we had a fairly brief failure in the water delivery system in our little community. Two days went by without any word from the Water Committee, so it came to El Gringo Viejo to be the one to go and find out the nature of the problem. It turned out that young glue-sniffers had essentially vandalised a directional valve leading from the large water tower that is about two hundred yards from our little home. They were attempting to steal it for scrap, ostensibly for obtaining money to buy glue and/or paint. The valve had some damage, but another one was found that was serviceable, and a dumboe was contacted to install it.
The installation worked for a couple of days...but after suffering through three days of no delivery....two days after the repair...as Ronald Reagan said..."There they go again". Alvaro came to tell me that the Committee had found that the valve in question needed a threaded sleeve which the plumber had not used. The Committee did not have any money, but they had found the sleeve and the plumber we normally used had agreed to put it in. But, they wanted to know if they could have El Gringo Viejo buy the brass sleeve at the main local hardware and construction supply outlet at the Estacion Santa Engracia.
The OROGs are aware that this is a fairly normal process. The Committee goes then to the State Water operation, which heavily subsidises these local water operations, which are actually medium to large locally administered endeavours, and they are re-imbursed. We have backed them up this way perhaps four or five times, and they have always returned the money....either very or relatively quickly. It is a holdover from the time of noblesse oblige, and they lump me in with about three other "patrons" who form up the "local nobility".
As we left yesterday morning, for instance, Alvaro informed me that the Water Master had told him that they were going on Monday to pick up their re-reimbursement. It might be pointed out that the monthly charge for daily delivery of three to five hours of potable water at medium high pressure is about 3.20 USD, We have a large cistern and our own internal pumping system for the house, and we use the remainder of the deliveries to water our growies and lawns once the cistern is refilled. The cistern by itself can supply the Quinta for about a week of disciplined use.
The vandals were already under judicial process, as juveniles. Now however, it seems that they are adults and so they will be picked up some night in a gutter in Cd. Victoria and be put into that wondrous process of the Mexican judicial system. For these and several other minor but significant offences they will probably get to hang around in real live prison for about three years.
We are also putting in a small, but quite nice, "cochera" (Koh-CHAIR-ah), which in our case is an open-air carport. It too will be a bit rustic, rhyming into the style of the home and the out-of-date, minimalist, head-in-the-sand nature of the local nobleman. Alvaro is the overseer of the operation and it had come time to go and buy the heavy (and rustic) full-cut two-by-four members that will be used to be tied into by our metal roofing. This meant a 400 yard walk over to a humble home where a man known as "The Bear" forms wood into various lengths, widths, and thicknesses. That was 320 pesos (about 25 USD), and Alvaro and I carried the long, and very heavy six members back to the Quinta.
What struck me as I went was the somewhat humbling realisation that there had been various new houses and other structures built of which El Gringo Viejo had been unaware. The main characteristic of 90% of the new structures is that they all showed obvious signs of having been variations or near duplications of the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre. It is not our normality to walk around much in the Ejido, and we live on the edge of it. There is nothing really to avoid in the Ejido Francisco I. Madero, it is just that for one or two people the day at the Quinta is almost always full of projects, and necessities are usually bought at a couple of little stores that are 3 miles distance or more, while Alvaro will go and buy Coca Colas, milk, and necessities of urgency at any of about a million different little outlets quite nearby.
So, this passing by of twenty or so structures, glowing bright white, looking very "retro-progressive", using colonial touches and a bit of organisation of the vegetation was almost disorienting. However, and with all American judgementalism in place, these places are better than the near-hovels they replaced. Other near-hovels are being improved even as we write. But it was strange that the phenomena had been right in front of me, and I had not seen it over the past two years or so.
There will be more venom and rancid liver bile poured forth in the coming days. We have an observation or two about the president's on-going .....dare I say....crusade to destroy and humiliate the United States of America. We have more about Mexico in general. We urge the attention of the OROG to the last three posts in the Anglican Curmudgeon's blog, and of course there will be guests' submissions as they arrive. We appreciate your interest, time, and attention.
El Gringo Viejo