It's mid-April, and as the semester winds down I am also planning another field trip to San Miguel. My plan is to depart in mid-May, just after I submit my grades. It will be a crazy month between trying to tie things up here and plan for the work there, but it has to be done. This time I'll be working without the benefit of having my family along, as they have other obligations to attend to this spring.
I arranged a rental about six weeks ago. This time finding a place was much easier. I simply posted a request on a couple of discussion lists and got a barrage of available rentals. I decided to take a combination house-sitting/rental. It's a nice place in a good neighborhood, and I have the added bonus of my landlady's cats around to keep me company while I work.
Soon my well-oiled fieldwork machine has hit a snag--Felipe, my friend and field assistant in Mexico for many years, found a much better paying full-time job a few weeks ago. He had been a professor at a small Mexican college for many years (thus free to work with me during school holidays), but found this new position too good to pass up. It bothered me that I would not be working with Felipe this go round. He and I know each other well and we have had a comfortable working relationship. So, I was off looking for a new assistant.
I knew that process might be onerous. I will be in Mexico for nearly a month, but that is not so much time that I can afford to spend days looking for someone new to work with as I traipse through new neighborhoods and (at times) go door-to-door looking for informants. Once I go started, I was thankful that San Miguel is not a typical Mexican small town.
My first move was to contact all of my friends and colleagues in Mexico. I have several contacts in Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, and Puebla, but those cities are far enough away that I knew it would be difficult to find someone who would be free and willing to travel that far, even for a decent part-time job. I put in a few calls to colleagues who have done work with the University in Guanajuato, and to some of my old friends in Textitlán. Then I got a true inspiration: to call some of my gringo friends in San Miguel.
To be honest, I wasn't certain it would work. Last year it appeared that the foreign expat community did not have terribly deep networks with Mexican residents, but I am now questioning that assumption. I first called Caren Cross, the director and producer of Lost and Found in Mexico. She took on this task with a zeal I would expect of a best friend, although she and I have never met face to face. We have been corresponding by e-mail and talked on the phone once. To date, Caren has not only putting the word out that I need an assistant, she is also interviewing those women who say they are interested, clearly above and beyond the call of duty.
So, today as I consider my plans for my upcoming trip, I know that this visit is going to be much different from the last, and I am going to see a very different side of San Miguel. Being connected in San Miguel means something: there are people you can count on, even if you do not know them well. This has to be one of the major draws of living there.