Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Good dog

Yesterday was a bad day, but today will be better. Ken and I spent several hours last night refitting our laptops with recording software so that I can now use either to tape interviews. My sister and mother are coming to visit early next week and I've asked them to bring a new digital recorder. So, it looks like I'm back in business.

This morning while I was walking the kids to camp, I stopped to talk to a woman with two border collies. I miss my own dog, so I like to chat up dog owners I meet. In general, it's not a good idea to pet or feed stray dogs in Mexico. Most tourists who are bit by dogs (and subsequently have to be treated for rabies) initiate the contact with the dog. But San Miguel de Allende is a different place for dogs. The American community started an SPCA here, and there are very few stray dogs on the streets. Nevertheless, I don't touch a dog, on or off the leash, until I've established that it has been vacinated.

The border collie woman has lived here for 5 years full-time, before that she did six months in Texas (her home) and six months here. Although she hasn't been her very long, she's very well connected with the old timers, and is going to help set up introductions with her circle of friends.

I'm so glad I stopped to pet her dogs.

Based on my conversation with Julia yesterday, I see there is a pretty big divide not so much between Americans and Mexicans (there relationships seem to have been pretty consistent throughout the years), but between the first wave of expatriates and the newer group (those who have arrived in the last 5 years). It appears that as the American community has grown, it has made it possible for people who aren't ready to "make the plunge" full-time to come here for several months a year to live.

While this is a typical "snow bird" pattern that is common in the U.S., Julia said it has killed the sense of community among ex-pats in SMA. The reason? The first wave of settlers here were a group of highly talented, highly educated retirees who were not ready to give up on work. They were volunteers and wanted to give back to the municipio (basically a county) of San Miguel de Allende, which includes the city proper and the rural "ranchos" in the outlying area. In the first 30 years of expatriate settlement, there was a flurry of charitable activity, and today there are over 200 charitable organizations in SMA. Some are based on basic needs, for instance Feed the Hungry is a program that raises money to feed school children two times a day for 10 and a half months a years (the school year). The Biblioteca Municipal (Public Library) is an amazing bilingual library that is one of the biggest in Mexico. There are fine arts organizations, educational scholarship associations, it goes on and on. Julia said that the part-timers are not as invested in the community as the full-time residents have been, and the charities have suffered as a result. There are fewer people to do the day-to-day work, although ironically, the community has become much wealthier with the infusion of ever wealthier gringos.

When is started off here, I thought my primary research objective (long-term) would be to examine the relationships between gringos and Mexicans. This division within the expatriate community is a new layer that I hadn't expected, and one that I plan to explore more fully during this research trip.

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