Monthly Archives: October 2011

A Hoss is a Hoss, Of Course, Of Course

By Mark Saunders

When I’m back in the States and people find out I live in Mexico, they always ask the same three questions. Is it safe?  What do you do for health care?  And what’s on TV? Because I’m not sure how much time I have left in life, I think it’s a good idea to prioritize and tackle the most important question first: namely, our TV viewing options.

We have plenty. Our standard cable package includes about 80 channels, and, as in the USA, most of those channels are filled with spouses screaming at each other, boring local community board meetings, and the same woman who appears just about everywhere in the world, wearing a tiny workout bikini and showing viewers how to tighten their abs.

But much like how they keep old Detroit beater cars from the 50s and 60s running, Mexico also keeps old USA television shows alive and well. My favorite is the Bonanza channel that runs the old Western starring Ben Cartwright and sons around the clock—and in Spanish. Have you ever gotten a good look at those three boys? Adam, Hoss, Little Joe? They don’t look anything like their father. So I’m guessing there once was a ranch hand named Big Joe who was pretty handy with a lasso and branding iron. Or, more likely, three ranch hands who didn’t always sleep in the bunk house.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I did a little research and learned that the three boys all had different mothers. By the time the series began, all those moms had died. Hmm. Makes you wonder what’s buried on the “Ponderosa” besides fir trees.

Watching shows in Spanish with English subtitles—or English with Spanish subtitles—is an excellent way to improve one’s foreign language skills. But, it has its limits. In an English-speaking show, for example, when a character, usually male and usually in a violent scene, drops a series of creative F-bombs, rattling them off as if carpet bombing a jungle, the polite Spanish subtitle shakes its head in disapproval and merely writes “maldición” (aka, curse or bad word).

I love that about Mexico, the politeness and awareness of others in the room. Unfortunately, if you find yourself in a heated argument in Spanish down here, I doubt shouting maldición at your opponent will get you anywhere.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


Cutting Room Only! Never-Before-Seen Chapters from “The Gift of El Tio”

We have been often asked to make blogs of those chapters we did not add to The Gift of El Tio, so the reader may see what was omitted from the final book.   This is the first of several we will “blog” to you…this was to be the second chapter in the book, where the villagers discovered their town was sitting atop the silver deposit, and all that it portended…


 April 1997

                                     The Power of Big Trucks



        Why was it me and not some other guy flying here on this fancy jet drinking expensive French wine?  Hell, plenty of geologists had sampled the hills around San Cristobal way before I got there.  Their assays must have shown the same silver values as mine, but somehow I found the deposit, they didn’t.  They walked away from it; I didn’t.  Beats me how such things work out.  But I’m not complaining.     

        I wished Karen were with me, but she could handle this royal treatment only a short time before her liberal guilt made her uncomfortable.  After the first hour she’d say, “This is immoral in a country where there is so much hunger.”  Right, as if me drinking the wine makes it any harder on the poor slob down there in the bush chasing his goats.  Yeah, I think I’ll try the cabernet next.

        The jet dropped to about 6000 meters, beginning its long approach to the dirt airstrip on the flats south of San Cristobal.  I hope they chased the llamas off the field this time.  The high peak of Cerro Jayula came in view to my right.  Across from me, Wilson Córdova, the CEO of the La Paz subsidiary of the company rested his head against the fuselage, his hands folded politely in his lap.  Wilson held an advanced degree in geology from Cal Tech, a school and a diploma that gave him special status, assuring respect from the local engineers who had graduated from the Bolivian schools in Oruro or Potosi.  His stature matched his status.  When in public he never failed to be immaculately dressed in a three piece suit, as sharp and precise as a Wall Street lawyer.

        Numerous updrafts of warm air jolted Wilson awake with a start.  He sat upright, straightened the hairs on his mustache, then rubbed the sides of his head to smooth his slightly-mussed hair.  He pulled a notebook from his pocket, and as he read his notes he leaned over to me.          “This meeting must go well.  If they refuse…,” he said, shaking his head slowly from side to side, “We can’t let them.  This is too important for the company.  For the entire country.”

        “And for them,” I added.

        His oval face sported a thin, well-trimmed, pencil-thin mustache and short hair, slightly balding on top.   He was confident and competent; looked a bit like Errol Flynn, capable under fire while possessing the hint of a romantic.  The man was elegant, there was no other word for it; he displayed a dignity that others could only envy.  I liked Wilson.  He always treated me right.  Especially now. 

        I pulled a plastic-wrapped package from my backpack.  Karen’s home-made walnut-cranberry muffins, two of them.  She always loaded my luggage with food, saying she didn’t want me to lose weight out there, but really, she just wanted me to carry some of her love with me.  I offered a muffin to Wilson.

        He put his notes down, and while munching he stared straight at my face, “I hear your wife is planning to write a book?”

        I felt very uncomfortable.  Wilson had enough problems; he sure didn’t need a book written about the mine right now, especially one by someone he suspected of having an anti-mining bias.

        “I doubt she will ever write it,” I said to console him.  “She hasn’t even visited Bolivia yet and probably won’t for a long time.”

        “And if she writes it?”

        “Yeah…well…I know Karen.  She’s as honest as they come.  She will see for herself that what we are doing is right.  And I’ll be there to point things out; make sure she sees the truth.”

        Wilson squeezed the crumbs and plastic into a tight little ball.  “I hope she listens to you,” he said. 

        Six words, but I heard only three:  Make it so…MORE


Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


El Tio–A Biography

Larry Buchanan

     The Quechua of the Bolivian Andes believe in a multitude of gods.  The one most obvious to all and universally believed is the god of the Catholics.  But there are others, mostly Quechua and Aymara gods, such as the gentle and lovely Pachamama, the god of the earth.  There is her lover, Huiracocha, an old man with a long white beard who lives in the bottom of Lake Titicaca.  There are an unusual number of spirits, souls, saints, goblins and sprites of various types and personalities, some good, some quite evil.  And then there is El Tio, a particularly cruel and peevish god, who lives his entire life within the black interior of mountains guarding his precious veins of gold and silver, a god actually created by the Spanish. 

     El Tío was born as an adult around the year 1605 and over the centuries has lived his life beneath the surface of the earth, though he does come out from time to time, especially at night when he is hungry.  Even in the absolute black of his subterranean home, El Tío’s beard and mustache glow orange or yellow.  His eyes are blue; his face, Caucasian, resembling those of his creators, the Spanish overlords who ruled by the whip in the mines of the Andes.  In a blasphemous rewriting of Genesis, the Spanish molded a clay god after their own diabolic likeness and enthroned him to rule in this sunless underworld, telling the frightened workers that this hideous clay figure was El Diablo, their Dios of the underground.  This god guaranteed torture and death for any exhausted native who dreamed he could somehow escape his mita, the impossible quota of toil demanded of every indigenous male in the Andes.  The Spanish felt the workers’ fear of angering this hungry demon would be stronger than their desire to escape the smoke-filled mines, and the miners certainly did come to fear him for they soon learned the hard way that El Tío had an insatiable appetite for human flesh.  And he was always hungry.

        “Here you will work beneath the earth, beyond the touch of the Santa María and the Saints, here in the realm of the Devil,” the overlords said to the frightened workers.  “Obey us you must, and fear him you should, for if you do not, this devil, your Dios, will devour you.”  The rumor is that the Quechua could not pronounce the lisp in the Spanish “Dios.”   Over the years it became “Tíos,” then “El Tío.” 

        Time removed the Spaniards from the mines, their bones and blood an inadequate payment for their sins.  But gods remain forever, and this god, El Tío, had promised that he had hidden a gift for those who continued to believe in him, a gift to be unveiled in the year 2000.  The gift promised to change their lives forever.  But true to the perverse nature of this harsh god, in accepting the gift the people must also accept the strings attached:  the destruction of their village and loss of their entire way of life.

"The Gift of El Tio" by Larry Buchanan and Karen Gans


Larry Buchanan co-wrote the memoir The Gift of El Tio with his wife, Karen Gans, after discovering a HUGE silver deposit underneath a centuries-old town in Bolivia.  The read more about his book go to

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Uncategorized