A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Wetting Earth - Volcanoes - Mexico - México - Méjico
Monday, August 17, 2009

In 1952 my mother made an exploratory trip to Mexico City from Buenos Aires where we were living at the time. At the time Argentines insisted on writing Mexico as Méjico. The x does not exist in Spanish. Any words with an x come from Mexican words. The x in Mexico can be pronounced as sh in Xola, as an h in the pronunciation of México and in the Ixtaccíhuatl, the sleeping lady volcano it is pretty close to the English x. Taxco the silver town on the way to Acapulco is pronounce Tasco. That x is an s. The conquering Spaniards in Mexico insisted on replacing the x with a j and even today some Spaniards will not acknowledge the existence of the X.

As soon as the Spaniard were thrown out in the 19th century the Mexican, in particular brought back the x. The Tejas Indians (pronounce like just like that) ended up as the Texas Indians which gave us Texas and the San Antonio County called Bejar was changed to a difficult Bexar so practical tejanos (nationalities in Spanish are never capitalized so canadienses are just that) simply call it Bear County.

When my fellow classmates asked me where my mother had gone I said, “Mexico,” pronouncing that x like an x in English. It sounded as exotic as Samarcanda or la Cochinchina (Vietnam).

When my mother returned she spoke of great volcanoes and mountains. I had never seen the Andes so mountains were as strange as polar bears. My mother spoke of the colour of Mexican earth and of the Aztecs and the Mayas. She brought me an obsidian knife and a little idol that smelled of dry dirt when suddenly rain falls on it. Mexico was a land of wonder and magic. When we left for Mexico to live I was prepared for an adventure.

That adventure has never ended. It persists every time I go to Mexico. I took this picture in Michoacán, Mexico three years ago. The volcano in the picture is Paricutín. A storm was about to hit and when it did it poured. When I saw this scene it became the Mexico of volcanoes that my mother had told me about. And when it began to rain I could smell that wonderful smell of wetting earth.


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On Photography - Candice Bergen - My Failure

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