Greetings from Mexico City, where my 27 words of Spanish are barely keeping me afloat. Thankfully, I have some wonderful Mexican friends helping me find my way as I research stories for the new book on ground. And I feel better now that at least I can ask, "Donde esta el banio?"
But first, before I flew down here on Saturday, I visited Yosemite with fire ecologist Gus Smith. Here's proof:
Actually, there's no proof of Gus in this photo, but someone had to take the photo. We also stopped by the Mariposa Grove to see some very tall trees. Some very threatened, very tall trees. After thousands of years of living, these Sequoias may not survive our warming of their world.
And now, I'm in Mexico City. The story here has two main aspects. First is that of the Templo Mayor, the main Aztec (Mexica) temple. When the Spanish arrived and defeated the Aztecs, they then destroyed the Templo and built their cathedral over it. Only recently has the Templo been found by archeologists (actually at first by a light company crew, but that's another story). The artifacts are amazing (the photo below is a container for food for the gods, "mainly blood and human hearts," says the guide), and this morning I got to spend time with the main archeologist on the project. When I asked him about how the Aztecs seemed to honor the natural ground but now we pave everything over, he agreed and said yes, we live on false ground.
The other story I'm pursuing here is how Mexico City has expanded to cover over more than 90% of the original wetlands that were once here in the Valley of Mexico. The costs to the birds and fish and other life that used to live here are obvious, but the costs to the people currently living here in Mexico City (more than 20 million people) are only beginning to be understood.
The fascinating thing for me is before last October, when I came to Mexico for the first time since dominating Mexican hitters as a 13-year-old pitcher from Minnesota, I wasn't thinking at all about writing of Mexico in the new book. And now, here I am, back a few months later for more. Even with my minimal Spanish (when I came in October, I didn't even know how to say "I don't speak Spanish" in Spanish), I'm having a wonderful time. Right now, it looks like the new book will have stories from Mexico, Peru, and Chile (and California, Alaska, Minnesota, and more). I'm lucky to have had Latin America (and Latin Americans, see below) become part of my life.