Wednesday, September 28, 2016

LXXIX. Dengue Fiebre

Dengue Fever

This evening, in the patio during our regular margarita time, we heard the unaccustomed sound of a two-stroke engine. We speculated what it might be. Not a lawnmower nor even a weed-eater, because there are no lawns to be either mowed or edged around here. We were befuddled. Soon though, in addition to the noise, we saw smoke rising over the palm in the yard of a casa on the privada off Calle Guadalupe Victoria, right behind our casita. We recognised the smell of the smoke that was wafting our way.  Our neighbors—vecinos—were being sprayed by the local health department to kill mosquitos carrying Dengue Fever.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito--a nasty guy
that not only can carry dengue, but yellow
fever, zika virus, and chikungunya.
According to WebMD nearly 100 million tropical-dwelling people a year are infected with this debilitating disease—fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, fatigue—which generally lasts at least a week. In other words, similar to a very bad case of the flu. Dengue is spread only by the bite of a certain type of mosquito which has already bitten a person whose blood contains the virus. 

Everyone around the lake here is familiar with the disease and knows someone who has contracted it, or they’ve had it themselves. A couple of months ago, the couple who own the bakery/deli where we shop several times a week came down with Dengue. Fernando described the experience to mi esposa; it was bad. I just got an email from the moderator of my Spanish/English conversation hour telling me he probably wouldn't be able to come to the next class—Dengue.

Wondering about the etymology of “dengue”, I googled it. It’s a Spanish word, fittingly, and means, “careful, in an exaggerated manner”. The supposition is that dengue describes the way an infected person might walk, favoring their painful joints. Not something one would want to experience.

If it’s in the neighborhood, I decided, we better take precautions. What with the rain we’ve been having recently—nearly every night—and the small accumulation of water under the outside work table that’s reluctant to dry up, not to mention the fountain’s pool, I figure our patio offers attractive breeding waters for mosquitos. 

I had an idea. Early in the summer I bought some insecticide to handle whatever it was that had been shredding our canna lilies’ leaves. I shopped around, wanting nothing that might harm the birds that came to our nearby fountain, nor hurt the tortugas with which we still plan to inhabit the pool. I came up with a chemical called cypermethrin that could be sprayed. Another Google search showed me it’s also effective against mosquito larvae. And, done! 

Plus, we still have our last line of defense—the electric tennis racket that we can swing, sportily, at those little suckers and kill them with a satisfying zap.

Update: A week after this post I met the fellow mentioned above—the Spanish/English moderator—walking past our front door. He's much better now, but said that for the first few days of the fever he had a 104 degree temperature and a headache like never before. It turns out he lives in that block behind us. It must have been his case that brought the health department's truck out to spray.

Further update: Just now—about ten days after the original post—a fellow dressed in blue coveralls and wearing a simple respirator over his mouth came down our street preceded by the buzzing of a two-stroke sprayer he had strapped to his back. In his wake the stinky mosquito spray. He briskly walked into our next-door neighbors' house and the whole family of four children and several adults immediately tumbled outside onto la banqueta, the toddler holding his nose. Out back of our place, the stinky spray wafted over our high adjoining wall. Our municipal health department in action to prevent more mosquito-borne dengue fever.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

LXXVIII. El Sendero Sagrado a Las Crucitas

The Sacred Path to the Little Crosses

Anyone with an ounce of curiosity who spends more than a day or two in the Mexican village where we live has looked up to the high mountain ridge just north of town and seen a small structure halfway up the nearest foothill. If you look closely, you can see a cross on the top of that garage-sized building. Asking around, you will probably hear that what you are looking at is a small “chapel” to which there is a switchback trail, and along this trail, in this heavily Catholic country, are the Stations of the Cross.

Even if you are not Catholic, you may know that the Stations of the Cross represent the important waypoints from the time Jesus was sentenced to death, to his crucifixion, and ultimately His resurrection. There are 14 stations in all, and on this trail they are represented by small, white, wrought-iron crosses each atop a concrete pedestal with a sign saying which station it represents. Our knowledgeable Mexican housekeeper, Rosie, refers to this location, collectively, as “las crucitas”—“the little crosses”.

If you are in decent shape you can hike up las crucitas in less than an hour; it’s not difficult. The switchback trail is popular among both the town's faithful and those looking for exercise with a sense of accomplishment or even virtue. Only a little further on, along the same trail near the top of this little cerrito, is a clearing and occasionally tended cornfield. This is the first stage in what becomes a much more difficult sendero sagrado—“sacred path”—up to three large crosses high on the ridge overlooking the lake and below the peak of Chupinaya.

On a recent day I made the shorter hike and took some pictures. It was good to feel I had no work to do on the casa, now that the Housewarming party was several days in the past. It was great to have seen so many of our friends and received their compliments both on the house, and on the food and drink we had prepared, but now I could take the time to stroll into the mountains and simply enjoy the day. 

You can barely see the "capilla" as a whitish A-frame structure on the hillside in the very center of this photo, about an inch below and just to the right of the string hanging from the powerline.
The seldom-used trailhead at the end of Calle Colón. I returned to this point on my way back down from the "capilla"
after beginning my hike at the end of Calle Galeana. This is the first station of the cross and reads, "Jesus is comdemned to death."
A number of wildflowers adorn the pathway. This one, possibly a wild hibiscus, was especially photogenic.
There were a lot of caterpillars like this one crawling on the path. I'm not sure what it will turn into, but even in this form its pattern is striking.
The last station, "Jesus is taken down from the cross." The thirteen wrought-iron crosses on concrete and rock pedestals are all the same in style and located about every 50-100 meters along the path. In the background is the "capilla". Rosie, our housekeeper, calls this place "Las Crucitas", or "Little Crosses".
I'm not sure who is memorialized here as the "Last of the Red Hot Papas" (a new take on Jesus?), but it looks like someone has taken exception to its location in front of the little "chapel". 
I couldn't read the sign lower left. The other one asks us to please take care of this place, it is the work of everyone.
The words on the mural inside the structure recount how Jesus was brought down from the cross and rose from the tomb.
This view looking out to Ajijic in the foreground, and Lake Chapala, is opposite the mural pictured previously. The recently planted tree rising above the fence in the middle of the vista looks to be a Kapok, or Ceiba. Others were planted along the path. Perhaps it was chosen because the prominent thorns that cover its trunk recall Jesus' crown of thorns.