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Clearing fields, pitting oneself against unyielding heat and spined brush

On the cusp of May, the hottest month of the Jalisco highlands, campesinos are making a last push to burn off their fields, mend toppled fences of rock, barbed wire and long-spined huisache branches, readying milpas (corn fields) for hand planting before mid-June rains arrive.

pg10You can see the high plumes of their blazing handiwork casting shadows across the cerro, other mountainside milpas, where steep field work is the hardest and, once it gets beyond 8 a.m., the hottest.

Now and then a stray, faint breeze may flutter streamers from the bruise-colored plumes, touch sweating bodies with the slightest stroke of tepid air. But it doesn’t last long enough to refresh.

There are no coddling air conditioners or swamp pumps here. Campesinos find brushy shade to lay out their tools. If not, the metal becomes so hot it sears even well calloused hands.

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