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ranged visit to the fabulous La California Hacienda built by Casimiro Peña, the Chili Pep-
per King of Mexico.
Rosalia Peña took us through her parent's hacienda, a mini-Hearst Castle, crammed with
art and antiques, which her father purchased on his many world-travel trips. His well- ex-
ecuted plan was to bring back a little bit of each part of the world. At the end of the visit, I
was left pondering, “How many chili peppers must a Mexican pick if a Mexican must pick
peppers?” Zillion and zillions…
Without our leader, the town of Dolores Hidalgo could have been boring. Although it is the
cradle of Mexican independence, an historic city with a museum and murals that honor its
history, Dolores can be fully explored in forty-five minutes. Well, that's hyperbole, but not
too much off the mark. It depends on how enchanted one is inspecting Talavera pottery, the
economic staple of the town, and making a visit to the cemetery to see the glorious mosaic
tomb dedicated to the singer José Alfredo Jimenez. Weekend side trips to San Miguel and
Guanajuato were important if one wasn't to go stir crazy.
At the university, close to brand new, they required picture IDs so they scheduled a photo
session with no film. Three hours later the film arrived, and we all lined up for our security
pictures. But never were they requested, so I just kept mine warm in my wallet.
The class schedule in Dolores was as different from Queretaro as the town itself. We were
expected to teach a maximum twenty hours per week, which made it a four-day week. Iron-
ically, in the town with little to see or do, we had the greatest amount of free time. We
taught mornings and some evenings.
We spent a day in a tiny, impoverished town, La Victoria, about an hour's ride away.
I took a second dose of Dr. Everett's Dumb Pills and made a side trip to Mineral de Pozos,
a mining ghost town that reminded me of Real de Catorce without the exotic location. I
soon found myself rappelling down a sixty-to-seventy-degree incline on the way to the bot-
tom of an abandoned gold-silver mine 600 feet below the surface. Mexico's liability law
is: “Keep your eyes open.” Out of breath, in the black abyss, my guide pitched a stone into
the mine's pure pool of water to show me that we'd reached the bottom. My female guide
made an emphatic statement about any so-called superiority between the sexes. There was
no question about who was the superior. I gave her the $5 fee plus $2 “for not leaving me
at the bottom of the hole.”
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