30 March 2008


The hills are burning west of Oaxaca. A band of fire has been aggressively advancing along the mountainside since midday. So far it's on the sparsely populated part, as best I can see. Perhaps there are homes in jeopardy on the other side, the side we can't see and never think about. Farther south, and closer to the city, there are definitely homes that could be in danger if the blaze blows the other way. Flames were visible in the daylight, even. I cannot even venture a guess at the distance between our apartment and the hillside, but I would not be surprised to learn that it is 10-20 miles. Then again, maybe it's only five. How can you tell these things from the porch rail?

My friend Santiago says it's not an accident. There are two villages up there in the mountains that have political differences; this is one of the ways these things get settled. Somebody started the fire with a specific purpose, and probably due to the extreme dryness and steady winds today it has spun out of control. Maybe tomorrow, Santiago says, we'll hear about the gang battles between the village politicians. In the meantime we watch fire consume the night, we stand back, we wonder, and we worry for the desert and the homes that dot the hillside.