My good friend Matt, now known as Mateo, dropped his life as a Seattle software geek, packed up his trailer, and drove down to the lovely beaches of Zipolite, Oaxaca. He has set up a new life down there. Occasionally I post some of his letters, with his permission of course, to remind us all that there is a world out there away from mortgages and 9 to 5 gigs. Here are some snippets from the latest:
Hey man. Thanks so much for getting back, I really appreciate it. [...] I'm now working with two other Mexican guys starting yet another Mexican non-profit to apply for world bank money to do a deforestation project. This is more Manolo's baby, he worked at the world bank for a number of years and his program was canceled by Wolfowitz. Needless to say he is quite pleased that W got the boot. Anyway he has retained a ton of contacts; I'm helping him prepare English applications and he is helping me find international money for things I'm interested in. The coolest thing, is learning from him.
In Mexico you can't do anything without the support of a local heavyweight. The local heavyweight can be a business leader, a member of an old family, a particularly good fisherman, or even somebody who tells good jokes. It has nothing to do with money or explicit power, it has to do with their personal power, their charm, their charisma, who knows what... Some people have this power [and] people follow them[;] they just know how to talk to all different kinds of people. With them you have a project. Without them you don't, they just take your money and nod. Usually if you go to a small town there are one or two guys who are heavyweights and you will quickly learn who. But one in a hundred, you can take the guy anywhere and plop him down and hell if he can't get everyone behind him in 30 minutes... no matter if they have never seen or heard of him.
Manolo is one of those. He looks like Fidel Castro at 50 with [a] gray beard, rides an old horse everywhere, and is shitfaced by 10:30 every day, but he's an incredible community leader. We went for a business meeting last week in the early morning sober hours. We were all in our bathing suits. We drank cheap Nescafe and he smoked cigars that he rolled from a single tobacco leaf at the table. He gave me the names of about 30 different international organizations that fund the work I'm interested in with tips for writing proposals and the names of his personal contacts. Then Filemon came by to borrow his gun to kill his cat, which had developed a [terribly] incurable disease. Manolo produced a small firearm and dispatched the poor cat, after which he announced he needed to take a ceremonial bath to cleanse himself of the bad vibes from killing an innocent animal. But no matter; we would resume the meeting with Alexis and I at the table and him out on the patio naked in a tub of water under the [bougainvillea] and next to his horse, who lives with him in his house. His house is the most amazing place I've seen, a sprawling decaying concrete estate with 180 degree views of the coast that he built himself over the last 20 years.
Nothing new here really. Things have quieted down a lot, we are waiting for the rain to start. Best to Ameen and the kids. take care, hasta la proxima,