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Boom! Boom! Boom! - Getting Back to Normal

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher
Photos by Scott Umstattd

The Spanish word "pica" translates as:
•itch
•bite (insect)
•peck (bird)
•sting
•spicey
•chop

With many more words than Spanish, English has greater precision, no doubt, one reason it has become the language of business.

Spanish, on the other hand, is the language of romance. Its economy of means, grouping related concepts under the same word, creates an association of ideas: an itch is like a bite is like a peck is like a sting is like something spicy. This inclusiveness renders it more poetic.

English, concerned with getting the details right, is more reductionistic. Spanish, with its broad sentiments, is more holistic.

Still, when it comes to fireworks Spanish, or at least Mexico, has us Anglos beat, on both both counts, detail and sentiment. While we Anglos need some sort of national holiday to start lighting fuses, Mexicans hardly need an excuse.

We say fireworks. They say fuegos artificiales (artificial fires). Pyrotechnics in English is a silver-dollar word, but in Mexico pirotécnico is commonly used. Still, when it comes to those purely sonic displays, those quarter-sticks of dynamite launched into the sky, those "bombs bursting in air," we English speakers are at a loss for words.

Mexicans call these cuetes (kweh-tays). Look up a translation of that word and your computer obligingly suggests inappropriate approximations: "firecracker" (too small), "stick of dynamite" (too big). Dig a little further and you find the military term "salute," but nobody talks that way. "Rocket" is the closest contender, and, indeed, if you aimed it at something and gave it a long enough fuse, it would do some damage.

These cuetes have to be launch up into the sky. Were they to explode at ground level they would shatter nearby ear-drums and send concrete, brick or rock shards flying like shrapnel.

Ten years ago during my first few months here in San Miguel I commented on these cuetes to my daughter, who was then living here herself. I opined that there is a special place in hell for people who set off cuetes in the pre-dawn, which, of course, as anyone who lives here knows, is prime-time for the activity.

In my own defense, I made this statement just after someone broke tradition by, after the requisite torrent of overlapping explosions, setting off one bomb every five second or so for a few minutes, long enough to keep me from falling back asleep even after he stopped.

My daughter conveyed my comment to the man she was dating at that time, a Zavala, a family which arrived in San Miguel 150 years ago. He retorted, "If he doesn't like it, he can go back to wherever he came from," a sentiment I understood even then.

All through the pandemic there have been no (or precious few) cuetes. For this all of us extranjeros (foreigners) have slept much better, no?

I understand that there will not be a Los Locos parade this year. But then my authority in these matters also told me that there would be no festival in Valle del Maíz this year and he was wrong about that. Last Friday and Saturday nights, in the hour before dawn (I suppose, because I didn't get up to check the clock) there were barrages of cuetes, extensive and more than usual. I heard in them, in their magnitude, the pent up being released. Yes, it was the traditional celebration of the Holy Cross, but it was also, I suspect, a celebration of finally being able to celebrate.

Now, granted, way up on the hill as they were, I did not hear them at full volume; not the way I hear (and feel) them when they are launched over the church here in San Antonio. Then, I get a very short warning, 2-3 seconds, as they whistle in flight before exploding right over my house.

But last weekend (I admit I already had my earplugs in) I awoke like a mother who wakens in the wee hours at the sound of her adolescent child coming home after a night out. I was, like that mother, comforted by that noise. It was like sleepily acknowledging an old friend just returned after a long absence. Okay, maybe not an old friend, but a friendly if sometimes difficult neighbor. With the pleasant thought that, after this pinche virus, life is getting back to some semblance of normalcy, I was lulled back to sleep by those explosions.

Recently I hardly recognize myself. I am approaching my life with less desperation and angst. These days I'm not so annoyed by the annoyances, not making the difficulties more difficult, not exploding at the explosions. It's strange watching myself react differently now, letting things pass that a few short weeks ago would have thrown me for a loop. I wake up, acknowledge the cuetes and then fall back asleep. Now, I'm not saying that I'm a Zavala, but I am becoming more Mexican.

**************

Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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