The Hundredth Meridian

A Bittersweet Conclusion

After so many years living in exile up north, Héctor had forgotten how pleasant fall in the Chihuahuan Desert can be, the summer heat banished for good and the first snows not yet upon the desert mountains that enclose the city on three sides.  From his office on the top floor of the Museo de la Revolución in the Casa Pancho Villa, he had a fine view of Ciudad de Chihuahua dominated by the three conical hills, Cerro del Coronel, Cerro Grande, and Cerro Santa Rosa, and the twin bell towers of the Catedral de San Francisco rising from the city center.  This morning the mountains appeared remote through a haze of poisonous cloud rising from the smoldering garbage dumps in the barrios that ringed the city at its perimeter and mingling with the incensed smoke of piñon and juniper wood fires burning on hearths and within cookstoves across the metropolis.

Leaning above thick forearms crossed on the windowsill, Héctor surveyed his new domain with proprietary satisfaction.  After three months, Chihuahua still seemed to him preferable to Albuquerque, if only on account of its historical presence and the notable absence of diversity.  (In the hundred days since his arrival in the city, he’d not spotted a single turban or burqa in the streets, or anywhere.)  Unlike the United States, which seemed to transform itself on a daily basis, Mexico didn’t change much.  Despite its substantial growth in recent...

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