It's been a while since I've written one of these, so let me start with the most obvious reason why I have neglected the blog: I went to Mexico a week ago with my sister Sarah on a cruise.
It was only the second time I had been to Mexico, both times to Baja, the long thin peninsula that Europeans used to think was an island. Baja is mostly desert; it's brown mountains and gorges are covered in cactus and shrubby little plants. However, when we visited, the hills were covered in every shade of green. And it rained or was overcast nearly every day we were there.
Two other guests on the cruise, from Modesto California, told me that Baja had been getting all the rain that California usually gets. Apparently the weather systems are changing. Sarah, who has worked in Baja for the winter cruise season several times, asked the staff of the boat whether this was normal. Some said no, others said that it had been getting more and more rainy in the last several years. I did a little research and could find no evidence online that weather systems were being diverted south to Baja. But I did find this quote from a paper put out by the University of Arizona :
"Future precipitation in the border region, as projected by climate models, is dominated by a continued high degree of annual precipitation variability, indicating that the re-gion will remain susceptible to anomalously wet spells and also remain vulnerable to drought (see Chapters 6 and 7). "
So, it seems that Baja will experience more variability in its weather patterns.
Because of the rain, and because the cruise was geared mostly towards retired people, Sarah and I amused ourselves as best we could. I drew a lot.
One day in Loreto we were taken on a short tour of the museum and mission. Our local guide, Mariana, showed us the sugar mill that the Jesuit priests used to lure the Baja Indians down out of the mountains to "civilize" them. Mariana told us that unlike mainland indigenous people, the Baja natives were hunter-gatherers and more nomadic. Some hypothesize that their roots go back to Polynesia. Unlike the natives on the mainland who descended from the great civilizations of the Aztec, Maya and Olmec, the Baja natives were different. They were less willing to give up their nomadic lifestyle. The fact that sugar, "sweets" were used to subjugate them, further confirmed to me that carbohydrates are often used as a tool of empire. The swing of blood sugar can make us slaves, as much as drugs, guns or booze.
A sign in the museum explained how the native population in Baja declined over the period of 1697 to 1778 from 41,500 natives to just 3,972 (in less than a hundred years.) Many died of disease, many, according Mariana, fled north into the wilderness.
In other news, in a study by Governing Magazine, Portland is reported to be the most gentrified city in the United States in the last 13 years. This confirms something I've suspected for years.
To all my friends from and in the Bay Area: I am not crazy. Gentrification can happen in places where the housing is considerably less expensive than in San Francisco. The difference is that there are fewer "good jobs" in Portland. Why did I move back? Well, I knew that in Portland I had family support and it's where my strongest community resides. And even though Portland has gentrified considerably since I originally moved here in 2003, the quality of life in Portland is still much better than in SF. I mean, if you can handle the rain.
On my first day back in Portland, driving to Bernard's house in the pouring rain, a city official on the radio talked about the influx of people expected to move to Portland in the future. He said that they would mostly be moving here for "climate reasons." The Pacific Northwest is one of the few regions in the country not expected to be majorly affected by the warming climate.