Last week, the Biden Administration announced immigration policies that would make it virtually impossible for migrants at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States. Among the new — and unlawful — policies is the requirement that asylum-seekers show they have applied for asylum in one of the countries they have traveled through. But, according to international law, applying for asylum in one country disqualifies a refugee from seeking asylum in a second country, such as the United States. Places like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua are not safe for refugees, and processing asylum claims can take years. The Administration’s cruel Catch 22 will cost many lives and require Central America and Mexico to assume even more responsibility for problems created by the United States itself.
This morning my neighbor, Daisy, came to my gate hoping to get some breakfast, just as she does several times a week. She doesn’t smell very good, and her coat is usually matted on one side. Even though Daisy is a border collie, she was measured as she always is. I opened the gate and she waited quietly while I filled a bowl with kibble. While she ate, I poured bird seed into a couple of bird feeders, and replenished the hummingbird feeder with sugar solution. Well, I thought, I’m becoming one of those grandmother types from my childhood who fed apple slices and vanilla wafers to everyone on the block.
When I left my job in San Francisco 8 years ago to travel the world, I told my colleagues that I felt like the boy in “The Red Balloon,” sailing into the clouds to an unknown destination. I left, and what started as a six month adventure became an 8-year lifestyle. Houseless, I’ve made the world my home, with unfamiliar rooms and unpredictable rhythms. It has been a romantic time in my life, learning things about the world I never imagined, and freeing myself of a few of my acquired illusions. I’ve lived my longing.
You can’t get to most places in the hills of Guanajuato, Mexico, except by walking. Some of the “callejons” are a bit challenging, but walk slowly from the University steps up to Cerro del Cuarto and you will be richly rewarded. There is magic there on the walls and walkways, thanks to the artistry of my friend Pepe.
If you are a Norteno living in San Miguel de Allende, you either know Susan Page or you will at some point. Susan put San Miguel on the literary map when she founded the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in 2004. She and her husband, Mayer, also travel all over Mexico to collect Mexican folk art. This is the story of a wooden box I saw in one of their galleries.
When I’m traveling, I love finding unexpected connections between people and places and ideas. Like Ekphrasis — an ancient Greek thing that I learned about in Mexico for an event sponsored by Americans. (If, like most people, you haven’t been following along, I’m an American in Greece on my way back to Mexico). Ekphrasis is a literary work that’s about or inspired by a piece of art. Like everything Greek, the idea of ekphrasis goes deeper than that. But to keep things simple, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is ekphrasic because the story is built around Leonardo’s paintings, including “Vitruvian Man.” John Keats’ poem, “Ode on A Grecian Urn” is also ekphrasic.
One of the small disappointments in my life is that I’m not the kind of person who gets nicknames, at least not the kind that are said to my face. For a short time, a few people called me “KimTwin,” a reference to an outboard motor. I was 20 and would have preferred a nickname that you would give to Anais Nin, mysterious and bohemian.
Although I am not a nickname kind of person, I’ve been called many things during my travels. Each gave me a little insight about another culture, and provided a small thrill. Here are the ones I remember.
If you’ve seen Disney’s “Coco,” you know at least a little about Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos. Day of the Dead celebrates the loved ones we have lost because remembering them keeps them alive. Here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, it’s a time of traditions that date from the time of the Aztec empire — as well as some modern adaptations.