Saturday, January 21, 2012

Working in a Country of Contrasts

Writing from his post in Mexico, Frank Stevens (now alias Señor Francisco) continues his letter to his folks in Chicago with some housekeeping items. Evidently, after arriving home from his service in the Navy, Frank had some repair work to do, possibly on the car which he groused about his sister abusing. I have no idea who “Zerkle” might have been. There are several of that surname including one gentleman who served as a realtor in an earlier decade and—knowing Frank’s liberality with his spelling—there are several surnamed with the variant spelling, “Zerkel.” Whoever Mr. Z was, Frank’s brother Gerry was to get those tools over to him, pronto.

Currently, Frank is writing from the city of Irapuato in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. This district is indeed an agricultural area, which is perhaps why Frank’s medical team was directed to Irapuato in their work for the Bracero Program. From the pictures and descriptions I’ve been able to find of the region around Irapuato, the area does indeed seem vaguely reminiscent of the initial destination of those selected for this program—the sugar beet fields to the east of Mount Diablo just outside Stockton in California’s Great Central Valley (and now you know where "The Big Valley" got its inspiration).

Coming from several Tully generations of faithful Catholics, Frank no doubt thought his mother would want to know about Irapuato’s many centuries-old churches. Beyond that reason for mentioning the details of his current surroundings, however, that melancholy wisp of sensitivity crops up as Frank muses over the economic situation he is observing.

            Before I forget it I want you to be sure and have Chip take those tools back to Zerkle, all that are in the garage belong to him and there are a few more in the car in the pocket back of the front seat.
            The little town I’m now in is very pretty and quaint, it’s about 320 miles north west of Mexico City. In a few days we shove off from here and head further up north to a providence [province] called Durango and that’s where we start to work in earnest, wish you folks could see this country with all of its old churches, the way people dress and the extreme poverty and extreme wealth, seems like there is no middle class down here either you have more doggone money than you know what to do with or you don’t know where the next meal is coming from and when you are that poor you don’t much care where it comes from. This is a country of contrasts.

Top right: Cathedral of the Diocese of Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License , Version 1.2 (and later versions), courtesy Wikipedia.
Middle left: View of Cerro Culiacán from Jaral del Progreso in the Mexican state of Guanajuato; also used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License , Version 1.2 (and later versions), courtesy Wikipedia.
Bottom: Templo del Hospitalito, Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; public use of this image granted by copyright release at Wikipedia.



  1. Frank saw some beauty in those churches and it sounds like it touched him to share with his mom.

  2. As someone that has sat in a Catholic church in Mexico - it is moving. They have the "old world"/"old ways" of doing things - and the people in the building sang beautifully (even though I didn't understand a word of it, being Spanish).


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