Freeze frames: Images of Mexico from the passenger’s window

We are leaving the parking lot of a grocery store in Tepic. Taped on a post, a flier with a photo of a missing teenage boy. He is shirtless wearing Bermuda shorts and standing barefoot on a beach in the shallow foam of surf.

Eleven in the morning. We are crossing Laguna San Marcos southwest of Guadalajara. It is a vast, flat, barren lakebed. Dancing tolvaneras – dust devils – whirl and skip across the plain. Espejismos – watery mirages – form, then evaporate. Devils and mirrors.

On the outskirts of Oaxaca a woman is standing by the highway. Cars are speeding by. In her outstretched hand she is holding a dead rabbit.

Three Oaxaca airport employees are standing by a malfunctioning parking ticket dispenser. One is handing tickets to drivers as they enter the parking lot. The task of the other two must be to keep him company.

A small haggard Indian woman in authentic or invented indigenous garb steps out into the Oaxaca traffic at a red light. She kneels down and her young haggard daughter steps on her shoulders. The mother stands up. The girl starts juggling two balls. The mother, whose blouse is hiked up, cradles a baby suckling her breast. The light changes. I hold out a handful of coins. The daughter dismounts. The mother takes the money. No one is smiling.

Job description: bell ringer. It is before dawn. A garbage truck in Ocotlán is stopped on the street by our hotel as we are packing up to leave. A couple of workers are gathering cans and tossing garbage into the maw of the truck’s compactor. One worker is standing by the rear of the truck with a bell in his hand. When the truck starts to back up, he rings the bell.

We are birding in the late afternoon, driving the road to Las Cascadas (the waterfalls) near the town Pluma Hidalgo on the Pacific slope of Oaxaca. We pass a family – father, mother, two children – carrying the disassembled parts of a shiny new porcelain toilet.

Isthmus of Tehuantepec. As far as the eye can see, giant wind turbines are slowly churning converting the manic winds of Tehuantepec to energy. Parques Eólicos – Aeolian Parks – is entirely too benign. I will call them Ejércitos Eólicos – Wind Armies.

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