Friends in Mexico


A Shepherd Boy

At last Benito reached Oaxaca. It had taken him three days to walk down the mountain from the hut where he had lived with his uncle for the past nine years. Benito was only three years old when both of his parents died, and he could not remember either of them. Nor could he remember having had enough to eat or to wear. Benito spent each day herding his uncle’s sheep near the pool at the bottom of the towering snow-capped peaks while he dreamed of some day going to Oaxaca to find his sister Josefa who lived there. In Oaxaca there might also be hope of good food, decent clothing, and a chance to go to school. There was so much Benito wanted to know!

His bare brown feet were blistered from the three-day journey. His clothes were almost in tatters. Benito carried with him only a gourd from which to drink, and he ate the few berries he picked from the bushes along the way.

When Benito reached the city he found that the people in the market place spoke a language he did not understand and so they could not answer any of his questions. Benito Juarez was a Zapotec Indian, and he had never heard Spanish spoken before he reached Oaxaca, Mexico. For a moment he almost wished he were back with the sheep. But when Benito remembered how often his uncle had beaten him and how he had sent him to find a sheep that had either strayed or been stolen, Benito pushed back his thin shoulders and kept walking and asking questions until he found someone who helped him find his sister.

Nearly thirty years later Benito was elected governor of Oaxaca. In 1861, when he was fifty-five years of age, Benito Juarez was elected president of all Mexico.

The story of the ragged shepherd boy who was always proud of his Indian heritage, who ignored the cruelty of his schoolmates because he was so eager to learn, and who suffered many hardships all through his life is a thrilling one to read. It is well known to children throughout Mexico, and a statue of this great man stands in almost every city and village. Even streets and schools and cities have been named after him.

Benito Juarez lived during a very crucial time. Many historians believe the dream of liberty and education for all that Benito carried with him down the mountain from his uncle’s hut did more to shape the destiny of Mexico than anything else. Benito Juarez is honored as the liberator of his country, and these words he spoke long ago are still found painted on walls throughout Mexico: “For nations, as well as for individuals, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

Scene from Life of Benito Juarez

When he was a child, he was tending a herd of sheep when the piece of land on which he stood broke away and he was carried out onto the lake.

Juan C. Flores, Age 8 Valle Hermoso, Mexico

Race Cars

Race cars today have aerodynamic lines and are much lighter, which makes it possible for them to develop high speeds. Those who drive and race them are almost always professionals and have had much training. They are called pilots. They are very valiant people with experience and a great sense of responsibility.

In Mexico we have had several great race car drivers. Among them are Moses Solana and Recardo and Pedro Rodriguez.

Our country remembers these men with affection and admiration because they raised the name of Mexico to great heights in this dangerous and exciting sport.

All race cars undergo a complete and careful check before going onto the track to foresee any possible mechanical problem that could cause an accident. The pilot must also be in excellent physical and mental health. Upon beginning the race, he must concentrate on the track and not on the other cars that he has in front or in back. Only in these conditions can he run a good race.

Jose Cedeno Pliego, Age 11 Mexico City, Mexico

Taba (Pronounced tah-bah)

These children in Mexico are playing a game called taba.

This game originated in the region of Ajacuba, State of Hidalgo, Mexico.

To play the game, you need a small bone such as that found in the knee joints of sheep and goats. The bone is rectangular in shape with an S figure on one of its sides and nothing on the other. The bone measures approximately one and one-half to two centimeters (about three-quarters of an inch).

The game is played in the following manner. Two or more children sit in a circle on the ground. Each child should have his taba. The first child throws his taba into the air. If it falls to the ground with the S shape facing up, that player wins and takes another turn at throwing his taba.

In this manner the child wins seeds, coins, or other items. If the taba falls to the ground with the plain side showing, the player doesn’t win and the turn is passed to the next player in the circle.