Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One Writer, One Reader

A frequently overlooked feature in Mexico is the corner newsstand.  It is my first stop when I leave home in the morning.  I don’t always go to the same stand -- that’s determined by where I'm headed -- but I'm gratified that all I have to do is pull up and say "buenos días" and the vendor hands me the papers s/he knows I want. Many people place a standing order at their favorite newsstand to receive the same paper every morning.  

Visitors from abroad are amazed by the array of papers to choose from.  In the U.S. even large cities are struggling to keep one local daily afloat.  I went online for a listing of Mexico City's dailies and counted 35!  Since some are sold as sections of larger papers, I'll stick with my longstanding yet still impressive count of 28.   

When I lead extended trips through Mexico I like to introduce the group to the newsstand's array of periodicals early in the trip.  I show them how each paper has a slightly different focus or fills a special niche, such as "The News" serving Mexico's English-speaking community.  Some are sports dailies, a couple specialize in finance, and there are those that are into blood and gore.  Some readers choose their paper by price, though more commonly they choose it by political point of view, some even buying the opposing political view in order to see what that side is saying.  The newspaper vendors understand this well -- when one paper is sold out a vendor will often recommend another paper with a similar point of view or focus.   

Despite their differences there is one thing all newspapers share; they all criticize whatever there is to criticize.  However, it seems there is a gentlemen's agreement they will not criticize each other.  Very rarely does a Mexican periodical comment on the inner workings of another paper.  For years I have kept a folder for that type of article; it is very slim.  An interesting open confrontation is a recent lawsuit filed by a literary monthly magazine against one of the largest circulating Mexico City dailies over comments one made about the other.

Choosing a name for a newspaper can be challenging with so many titles already in use.  Perhaps the most unusual is "unomásuno"-- yes, all in lower case and run together.   Shortly after publication began in November 1977, the paper’s founder Manuel Becerra Acosta was told, "your newspaper has the most ridiculous of names, 'oneplusone'.  Why don't you just call it 'two' and save us the trouble of doing the math?"  Becerra replied: "Ours is the most appropriate of all names.  Without at least one writer and one reader it makes no sense to have a newspaper."

With that in mind, dear reader, I thank you for your participation in making this the one-hundredth "Charlie's Digs".  I owe special thanks to Mary Coday Edwards, former World/Business editor, for suggesting my column to "The News'" Director Alejandro Envila Fisher.  I send my thanks for management of the column to Alicia Bello, managing editor, to Chris Waite, who's hand I see in subtle changes making the text flow better, and to assistant editors Armando Rodríguez and Oliver Lezama who help produce the column.  I remember fondly the late Lawrence Duncalfe, who I could always count on to give me positive comments about the column.
I thank Carol Hopkins who is my key collaborator in every way, with ideas for topics, editing, fact checking, researching, and overall encouragement.  For today's column she did that from the Camino a Santiago in northern Spain.

Thanks also to Sue Roman, who twenty-five years ago gave me an inch-thick hardbound book with gold lettering embossed on the spine and cover reading "Short Stories by Charles P. Goff."  Its three hundred or so pages are blank, challenging me to fill it up.  I didn't write in the book but with the support of all of you readers I'm writing my stories in "The News".  More recently she set up a blog in which all the Digs are posted.   

I invite you to visit www.charliesdigs.blogspot.com.  Each Digs is a stand-alone glimpse into an aspect of life in Mexico.  Most are not time sensitive.  Topics are varied and include art, archeology, astronomy, ecology, holidays, museums, special exhibits, history, theology, current events, journalism, social leaders, and Mexico's contributions to the world.  There are even outlandish Charlie's theories which make perfect sense to me -- such as how to straighten Mexico City's tilting cathedral or why Christmas isn't on the first of January. 

By the way, my special newsstand is in Acapantzingo on the outskirts of Cuernavaca. Brígida Gutiérrez Gómez saves a copy of "The News" for me every Tuesday, just in case I am out of town when Charlie’s Digs is published.  She saves them for me for weeks, sometimes even a month, never doubting that I'll show up and pay for them.  When I do arrive she pulls my papers out of a towering pile of newspapers and magazines almost immediately -- and does so with a smile.  Yet another of Mexico's marvels. 

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