Saturday, November 15, 2008

Teaching English in Mexico: The Birth of a Volcano

Paricutin is Born …

His ox stopped again, panting from the effort of pulling a crude wooden plow through soil that cracked beneath each labored step. Dionisio stopped too, mopping his brow for the hundredth time. “Tst – tst!”, the Tarascan Indian coaxed at the beast. It clambered up and again began the grueling toil. They had been laboring since before the yellow burning ball had begun to launch its missiles against man and beast in the oft-parched lands that lay well east of the Pacific’s rocky shores.

Soon it would be time to plant the corn. But how could they know that this year, there would be no corn. There would never be corn here ever again. Suddenly the plow froze in the ground. The ox strained, the farmer strained, the frame creaked – but wouldn’t move. Instead, a hole now began to grow where the hemp ropes once met the plow’s wooden frame. A hissing sound enveloped the two as white smoke poured from the slowly-widening orifice. What was happening? With a loud “crack!”, the ground split open, the rope snapped and the ox of Señor Pulido bolted for the path that scored its way through sparse trees and farms hewn from rain-starved soil towards the tiny village of Indians across the desert flats.

“Run!” screamed the terrified farmer to the campesinos nearby.

But they were already careening headlong toward the village. Already the old bell of the church creaked and groaned against the rafters as it sounded its last alarm. Smoke billowed from the gap in the earth. Flames and stifling heat burst forth in waves. The earth itself cried and grieved turning black from the onslaught. No one slept that night. No one slept for many nights after that. The earth coughed in explosive “BOOMS”. Flaming stones and ash rained from the sky. Steaming lava that glowed at night spread over the ground, first torching the trees and days later, the village.

The people fled the reach of “El Monstro”, the name they gave the growing hill of fire that had now covered Dionisio’s cornfield and most of the small village.

Paricutin Lives …

URUAPAN, often visited in conjunction with trips to Morelia and Patzcuaro, has a population of around 265,000, and doesn't seem to have much to offer on the surface. What's hidden is what makes it interesting. It was just near here on February 20th of 1943 that Paricutin Volcano (pictured above) rose up outside of town as farmer Dionisio Pulido literally watched it grow in his cornfield. Before it was finished forming, it had wiped out two villages. Miraculously, no one was killed, although it is said that more than two thousand people lost their homes. You can visit the area, but bear in mind that the dirt road ends 4 miles (7 km) from the volcano. Guides with horses can be hired to take you to the site, where you'll see a church spire sticking out of the cooled lava and ash - and that's it. Two lovely waterfalls, Tzararacua and Tzararacuita, which are smaller and better for swimming, lie about 6 miles (10 km) south of Uruapan, located 200 miles (325 km) west of Mexico City. You can read a historical account on the birth of Paricutin Volcano online.

Such are many of the possible benefits, pleasures and stories you’ll know if you’re planning to visit, vacation, live or Teach English in Mexico.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

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