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An affair of the heart: coldly, freely choosing a high, hard-minded way to leave

On an August afternoon in 1963 Astfulo (“Tulfo”) Diaz gave me a horse racing tip. In pueblos lining Lake Chapala, horse racing of both the most formal competitions, as well as the most casual pickup races were grandly popular. Spontaneously, without preparation, they could take place, midweek or on weekends.

Time was marvelously elastic then, not yet a commodity.

Tulfo Diaz was in his thirties, early forties in those days when the love-hate relationship between gringos and Mexicans was a ripe, if generally subterranean, existence. Newcomers often failed to recognize this, often to their misfortune. In Ajijic, races took place along a stretch of dirt road running along el manglar — a mangrove forest — lining the edge of the lake. Today, it’s place is taken by the southern edge of La Floresta housing development. But then it was a becoming, quiet place where folks would go for a stroll, down the lovely long bosque of mango, guayaba, lemon and banana trees and, close to lake’s edge, the lattice wall of mangroves.

“That one won’t win, amigo,” Tulfo said as I finished inspecting the horse, and hunkered down beside the hoof-beaten road that was the pueblos’ race track. He asked if I wanted to bet. “If the horse I’m backing won’t win, why should I bet with you?” Instead of taking offense, a good possibility, Tulfo laughed. “You are muy sabio for a young gringo.” He nodded as the horse I’d favored lost. Tulfo squinted at the pencil and notebook I held. “You like horses, eh? Come visit sometime and we’ll talk about horses.” He drew a rough map. He lived southeast of Ajijic. “Tell the bus driver Agua Agria.”

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