The call from Poco a Poco came late in the morning with good news: they’d found another oxygenator machine and would rush it to San Pedro that afternoon.
“¡Maravilloso!” Anita Torres exclaimed. But, after she’d hung up, she groaned. Now she would have to play the Covid God again. To which of her many beloved neighbors who were gasping their last would she grant a chance at life?
Welcome to the tortured lives of Torres and the Mexican village she has come to love, San Pedro Itzicán.
Perched just above sparkling Lake Chapala—Mexico’s largest, twice the size of Lake Tahoe, and similarly surrounded by mountains, lush during the rainy season—San Pedro enjoys an ironically beautiful setting. It lies just 23 miles east of Ajijic where thousands of American and Canadian expats have retired to enjoy, among other things, the lake’s idyllic weather.
Nonetheless, the 5,000 mostly indigenous inhabitants of San Pedro hardly find their home to be the paradise the expats do. In addition to their dire poverty, they suffer from the highest rate of kidney disease in the world, with primarily youngsters regularly dying of renal failure.
Yes, blame the water from the lake and the wells, laced with pesticides, arsenic, heavy metals, feces, and 21,000 times the norm of sulfites. But, add nearly universal childhood malnutrition, acrid smoke from cooking fires, rampant illiteracy, ubiquitous scorpions, widespread dengue fever, governmental apathy... and you have an insidious brew, indeed, all exacerbating each other with a powerful, negative synergy.
Why would any sane person choose to make such problems her own? Perhaps empathy and compassion are forged in the fire of suffering.