I’ve been in San Agustin Oapan, so I haven’t been able to answer emails or read your blog or for that matter read MR. In the two years since my last visit, I noticed or heard of the following changes:
1. There are now ten Mormons in town, whereas previously there had been two.
2. Immediately upon arrival, I saw two Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors.
3. About half the teenage girls wear jeans rather than traditional dress; two years ago the percentage of girls with jeans was zero.
4. There was no rain this summer and hardly any corn was harvested. Forty years ago this would have meant starvation but now it is a mere fluctuation in real incomes. People buy more food from stores, albeit at higher expense. By the way, this is one reason why the Oapan corn farmers do not seem worried about the importation of U.S. corn under NAFTA.
5. There is a construction boom and arguably a housing bubble, financed by what can only be called subprime loans.
6. The municipal building has a new foundation made out of cement; previously the foundation of the municipal building was an old Aztec pyramid. There is no remaining sign of the pyramid.
7. The town was celebrating the change in the "fiscál," an office very roughly analogous to our secretary of the treasury. The celebration consists of a procession of fifty old women and a few old men carrying around a large plastic statue of a saint on their shoulders, singing traditional songs and carrying candles, with various peso bills stapled to the saint.
8. Thirty-five years ago the trip down to the main road involved an arduous climb and then descent, usually with burro, lasting six to eight hours. Ten years ago the trip down to the main road involved a slow four hour drive (but only 25 km) on a dirt road. Come February, when the paving of the road is finished, it will be a 70-minute drive to the nearest Wal-Mart.