Yesterday, I walked two miles to my friend Annie’s house located on a hillside outside the village center. It was one o’clock in the afternoon and the walk took me over thirty minutes as I hugged the sides of buildings and sought shelter from the midday sun under the shade of hundred year-old trees lining the river bed path. Every several hundred steps I needed to stop to catch my breath at this altitude of almost six thousand feet. The sun beat down, strong and constant. I wear a wide brimmed hat here that extends far down the back of my neck and over my face. As I walk, I imagine the photos and films I’ve seen of Mexican men curled up in a corner with sombrero pulled far down to cover faces. I remember seeing only the curl of a mustache and a mouth in repose. This is the stereotype of the sleepy or lazy Mexican that has been presented to us over the centuries. Yet all I wanted to do yesterday afternoon was to seek the shelter of some shade and protect myself from this fierce sun that makes one so tired, hot, wet and saps energy. So, as I walked and pulled the brim of my hat down to completely cover my face, tilting my head forward and keeping my eyes down to watch the path as I walked over cobblestone streets and rutted dirt roads, I wondered why we don’t understand the culture and environment of our hardworking Mexican neighbors who through sheer force of energy are able to create a vibrant life among the cactus and inhospitable soil.
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