People talked of the days of cholera, of Xochitlán's baptism in a great flood of diarrhea and vomit. In those days there were wives and husbands, children, mothers and fathers just gone. The water was unclean and there is no deliverance from water.
They said one-in-four perished. I didn't believe in the 1990s a medieval epidemic wiped out a town like this with no peep heard elsewhere. The government underreports outbreaks and it was an unbearable tragedy here whether one in four or one in forty. Xochitlán's torment was in the still dirt streets, the ramshackle homes at the periphery, the dust-blown open market and in the church of broken walls that stood as the headpiece of the town square called the zócalo.
It was three years after the epidemic. Sweat soaked our shirts as we raced again in the sun past men with straw hats plowing and harrowing new milpas and breaking up dark soil beneath the pale dust. We slowed to saunter at a reverent pace as we walked those streets near the graveyards where from time to time other men with straw hats, muscled from years of labor, would stand quietly with calloused hands and infected nails clutching their deep-lined faces or kneel at wooden crosses and weep.