Category Archives: South of the Border

Una Calavera para el Día de Los Muertos

Feliz Día de Los Muertos!

Jose Guadalupe Posada, "Gran fandango y francachela de todas las calaveras" - 1913

Y para celebrar, una calavera tradicional:

Estaba la calaca flaca
sentaba en una pitaca.
Sus ojitos le lloraban
porque no podia hacer caca.

For my English speaking friends, Happy Day of the Dead. The poem above is a traditional type of poem called a calavera that comes out specially for the Day of the Dead. They are usually humorous and make fun of the living. The one above is one my mother and her siblings would chant to tease each other when they were children. Here is a general translation (but of course it doesn’t rhyme in English):

There was a skinny skelton
sitting on a chest.
His eyes were filled with tears
because he couldn’t poop.

You can see why I say they teased each other, and you can imagine when they would chant this poem. 🙂

If you would like to know more about the Day of the Dead, I found a pretty good explanation at Thinkquest.


The Loss of Innocence

He appeared one day on the street corner to sell newspapers with his father. He caught your attention, and you studied him. He was a gangly boy of about 13 with arms and legs he hadn’t quite grown into. His face was open and fresh, his eyes were bright, and he had that exuberance that you only see with youth. He walked side by side with his father, both of them wearing baseball caps, and in between running to cars to deliver papers, they conversed and laughed and smiled. You wondered what they talked about. You smiled when they smiled. It was his innocence that attracted you.

There was no other innocence on that street corner. The same beggars asked you for money every day, the same vendors tried to sell you trinkets, the same performers would do their tricks then ask for money. All the faces were weary with the weight of life, and everyone competed for the few pesos that were given out.

But he was fresh, and young, and happy. You bought papers from him. He was the bright spot of your morning commute. You wondered what his life was like. Would he ever get an education? There was an intelligence that gleamed from behind those eyes. Would he spend his life on that corner? And you wondered what twist of fate had kept you from a life like his. What fine distinction kept you from living on the street or in abject poverty? What separated you from him?

Then one day he was gone. Perhaps he was in school. You liked that idea, but you missed his smile. A few weeks went by and he reappeared on that corner. Your heart thudded in your chest when you saw that his arm was in a cast. What had happened to him? You felt a bit of nausea when you saw his face. The smile, the light, the joy was gone, replaced by hardened eyes and bruises. His jaw was set as he hawked his papers. He did not laugh and talk with his father or with anyone else. He simply existed, a shell of the boy you had seen before, and you wanted to cry for his loss of innocence.

©2010 frayedges and


Culiacan, Mexico is a hot, humid locale on the Pacific coast of Sinaloa. It was there that I was to make my home, and I moved with high hopes. I found a nice house to rent in a suburb not far from my new job. My new home was a two-story structure with a walled-in patio that wrapped completely around the house. The patio roof and front gate were covered with decorative metal bars, which provided security and allowed me to keep my doors open to let in the cool night air. It also allowed my cats to have unaided access to the outside. It was perfect, or so I thought. It wasn’t long, however, before my life turned into an episode of Wild Kingdom crossed with Friday the 13th. It all started with a demented cat.

Late one evening, just after I had drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by a chilling scream from downstairs. I ran as fast as I could to see what was happening. There, in my living room was a street cat. It was a scrawny male with thick jowls and dirty grey fur, and he looked mean. He had cornered my cat Ari in the dining room near the patio door. Floating around near the floor were tufts of Ari’s black fur that the street cat had yanked out in his attack. Poor Ari had no teeth or nails so he couldn’t defend himself. I frantically ran to his rescue and chased out the demon cat with a broom. It took me over an hour to get over the fright. I thought about what I could do and came up with an excellent solution.

The next morning, I bought some screen to attach to the bars on the patio’s front gate and spent over two hours wiring it in place. It worked well. It just didn’t solve the problem. Two nights later I heard another bloodcurdling scream from downstairs. I jumped out of bed half asleep, but was so confused I ran into the bathroom instead of the hallway. I quickly redirected myself and ran downstairs. The wild cat heard me and dashed to the front of the patio. I could hear him trying to get out of the front gate, but I had attached the screen so nicely on the gate he couldn’t escape. I quickly closed the back door and back window to the house so the cat couldn’t enter my home from that direction. I flung open the front door to confront kitty. Psycho cat ran to the back of the patio immediately. I stood there in the open doorway in the little shorts I slept in, a tee shirt, no bra, no makeup, hair in all directions with the whole neighborhood staring at me! There was a party next door that I did not know about.

I got it from the numerous witnesses in the yard that the cat had jumped over the wall and entered the patio through the bars above. The ground is higher on the outside than the inside of the patio, so the demon cat could jump in, but not jump out. I opened the front gate, told the little kids in the neighborhood to get back, and went to the back patio where I scared the stray cat with the broom out the front gate, again. I think the broom was unnecessary. My appearance alone should have done the trick.

The next day I bought more screen. I wired it to the bars over the patio. All was peaceful and harmonious once again in my home. That is until a new houseguest moved in.

Ted arrived on a stormy evening. He slithered through the sliding glass door as I was closing it to keep out the rain. I screamed in terror and tried to stop his progress, but he was the quickest fellow I had ever met. Ted was a five-inch long, very scary-looking centipede who quickly crawled between the wall and my kitchen cabinets to set up house. I did research. Centipedes have poisonous mandibles and their bites feel a bit like bee stings. I decided that Ted was dead once I finally found him. Until then I moved around my house with trepidation…waiting for my toes to be unexpectedly attacked. I even had nightmares about Ted jumping into my bed at night.

Not long after Ted moved in, I was once again awakened by a bloodcurdling scream, this time around two in the morning. I leapt up, slid into my flip-flops and headed down the stairs at full tilt, ready to battle the crazy cat. I threw back the curtain that hung at the bottom of the stairs and came to a screeching halt.


There he was, taking an early morning stroll across my ceiling from the dining room to the kitchen. Let me tell you, at two in the morning in semi-darkness a five-inch centipede looks like a twenty-foot train! Ok, I remembered that the pesticide was on the patio. I also remembered that I was after a wild cat on the patio. The problem was that Ted was between me and the patio. What a horrible situation to be in!

I calculated my options and found them to be very limited. I decided to move slowly around the edge of the dining room all the while keeping an eye on Ted who was completely oblivious to my situation. As I neared the patio I kept my other eye out for a wild cat (I have very flexible eyeballs) I carefully entered the patio, but there was no sign of kitty. I moved quickly for the pesticide, ready to run from super cat if necessary. I grabbed the pesticide, headed for Ted, and sprayed with all my might. He began to quiver and a few of his legs lost their grip. It wasn’t enough, and I began to panic. I sprayed again furiously until he was all frosty like a Christmas tree. He was dangling from the ceiling with only about eight of his legs. In frustration, I swatted him down off the ceiling with a fly swatter and pinned him to the ground. I moaned in despair as I realized the fly swatter was not strong enough to kill him. I ran madly to the patio again, grabbed a dustpan, ran back to Ted, and beat him to death before throwing his mangled body into the street.

Memorial services will be held Saturday afternoon. Flowers and donations are welcome.

I never did find super kitty.  I think my cat Ari just saw the centipede and screamed in terror. After that day, the problems with wild creatures stopped and everything was smooth again- well, mostly. Psycho cat did like to lounge on the screen that I had put in place and taunt my cats, but he never again gained access. From then on, he picked on the neighbor’s cat.

©2010 frayedges and

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