Thursday, May 19, 2011

(Partially) Lost Treasures, Part IV

At last we've come to the last list. In previous posts [1], I've explained how I found some lists of photographs that I took while serving an LDS mission in Monterrey, México.[2] Some of those photographs were lost, in one way or another. As with the previous list, I have most of the photographs described herein, but not all of them. Some were either damaged or given away. I'm no longer sure which. So, without further ado, here is the last (annotated) list of photographs:

1. chupando piña 6-29-01
  • The missionaries in my mission used the phrase chupando piña as a euphemism for "making out with a pretty girl". It literally means "sucking pineapple". LDS missionaries are supposed to abstain from romantic relationships, thus this shot was intended to be humorous.

2. ant piles + bananas (offices) 7-6-01
  • Behind the mission offices, next to some banana trees I found some ant piles that looked like miniature volcanoes. The photo wasn't worth uploading.
3. Monclova zone 7-9-01
  • A picture of all the missionaries serving in the Monclova zone when I arrived.
4–5. Lucero's bap. 7-14-01
  • Lucero ("Lightbearer") had a daughter, named Estrella ("Star"), who was already a member of the Church, but she didn't make it out to Sunday services very often. Unfortunately, that didn't improve after Lucero joined the Church. This picture didn't turn out very well, but I do have it.
6. AHMSA 1 7-26-01
  • There's a better picture of AHMSA below.
7. Monclova sun ray 7-27-01
  • This photo, I think, needs no explanation.

8–9. Vanessa's bap. 7-28-01
  • I don't remember anything about Vanessa, even though I have a picture of her at her baptism. I suspect that she was the girlfriend of Sergio, who also appears in the picture, but I can't be sure. She was baptized by the bishop of that ward, Obispo Reyna.
10. mountains between Monclova and Mty. 8-7-01
  • The mountains between Monclova and Monterrey looked pretty interesting. But the photograph didn't turn out very well. The window of the bus was pretty small, so most of the photo is blocked out. And since the bus was moving, the focus wasn't very good.
  • I didn't remember to record what these were on my list, but I know what they are because I have the photographs: 

A banana tree. Until I reached México, I had no idea that the bananas grow upside-down on the tree.

Several more pictures of AHMSA, like this sunset shot. You can see the silhouette of the AHMSA machinery at the bottom of the picture.

Burros in the dusty street. Does it get any more stereotypical than that?
16. AHMSA w/ fog 8-29-01
  • There's a better picture of AHMSA above.
17. Hernandez 8-30-01
  • Either I gave this picture to Elder Hernandez or it didn't turn out because I don't have it, now.
18–19. Bap. de Conchis 8-31-01
  • Elder Hernandez and Elder Pitcher also baptized a woman this same day, named Zaporan. Conchis is a common nickname for a woman named Maria de la Concepción ("Mary of the Conception"), one of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, according to Catholic belief. She is the tiny woman standing in front of me. One funny thing about this picture (which didn't occur to me at the time) is that the photograph was taken in a cancha ("basketball court"), which sounds similar to Conchis.

20. Bolillo Grande 01 SEP 2001
  • One of the racial slurs that Mexicans use for Americans is bolillo. It means "dinner roll" and refers to the whiteness of the bread. One day while at Sorianas (the major Mexican supermarket) I spotted a sign that said bolillos grandes ("large dinner rolls"). Since I was a bolillo grande ("large American"), I had my companion snap my picture next to the sign. It's a little blurry, so you may not be able to make it out.

21. La cucarachota 04 SEP 2001
  • Many of you may know that la cucaracha means "the cockroach".[3] Adding the suffix -ota to the end makes it "the huge cockroach". Me and my companion, Elder Valdetano, had this piñata made for our zone for completing their proselyting goals. It was stuffed with candy, of course.
  • As you can see, I spent so much time in the sun while in México, that my hair was bleached almost completely white. You can guess why the people there never hesitated to call me güero ("whitey").

22–23. AHMSA in dust 05 SEP 2001
  • One day a dust storm kicked up and we were driven indoors. It was so bad at one point that you could only see a few yards ahead of you. It took several days before I got all the dirt out of my ears and nose. AHMSA isn't actually visible in this photograph because of how dusty it was.
24. I.M.S.S. Eagle 05 SEP 2001
  • I.M.S.S., which stands for Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social ("Mexican Social Security Institute"). It functions like the U.S. Social Security system with the addition of universal health care. As might be expected from a socialized health care system, the health care is of questionable quality and the lines/waiting times were notoriously long. Whenever LDS missionaries became ill, the Church paid for them to be treated in private hospitals. The I.M.S.S. icon, which can be taken as a symbol for Mexican socialism as a whole, is a nursing woman enfolded in the wings of a large bird of prey (probably an eagle).
25. E. Pitcher
  • Elder Pitcher was one of the missionaries I shared a house with in Monclova. Either I gave away this photo or it did not turn out.
26. E. Hdz.
  • Elder Hernandez was another missionary I shared a house with in Monclova. Elder Pitcher was his senior companion. Either I gave away this photo or it did not turn out.
27. E. Valdetano
  • Elder Valdetano was my second companion in Monclova. We were zone leaders together. Either I gave away this photo or it did not turn out.
28–29. me
  • Either I gave away this photo or it did not turn out.
30. los 4
  • (i.e. "the four of us") Either I gave away this photo or it did not turn out.
31. zucchini vine 18 SEP 2001
  • One day while out proselyting, I spotted an unusual zucchini plant. Rather than grow it on the ground, the owner had planted it on his roof and let it grow down like a vine. The fruits did just fine and didn't fall off, which I was surprised to see.


A giant centipede (ciempiés in Spanish) that we found crawling in our house (compare it with the bottle caps on the ground at the right). We chased it outside and killed it with a rock. Then we burned it with a match and some hairspray.[4] This one was orange, but I also saw some that were the color of verdigris. They most likely belong to the genus Scolopendra. I forgot to write this one down on my list.

33. cerro Gloria, mine, nogaleras 25 SEP 2001
  • A shot of El Cerro de la Gloria ("Glory Hill") from Monclova. In front of the mine you can see some pecan trees (the people there called them nogaleras [5], which technically means "walnut trees") and in front of those the flood plain of the Río Monclova ("Monclova River").

34. Boule chafa 25 SEP 2001
  • Boule is short for "boulevard" and chafa is a Mexian slang term for "worthless". The government started building this huge highway through the middle of Monclova but ran out of money, so they abandoned it. One time when the mission president came for interviews, his wife asked me to drive her around in their minivan to the different apartments that the missionaries were living in for cleaning checks. Even though it was out of my way (she didn't know that) I went driving on this road in the mission minivan. It was pretty fun and the only time I drove a motor vehicle in México. I can't find it, now, on Google Maps, so perhaps the highway is completed, now.


[1] See here and here and here.

[2] For those who are unsure why Latter-day Saints (Mormons) go on missions, I recommend you visit here and here, where you can learn more about LDS beliefs concerning sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

[3] You may not be aware, however, that the Mexican song La Cucaracha is about smoking marijuana. It is a reference to the slang term for the butt of a marijuana cigarette: a roach. See

[4] Lest you think we were being malicious, these were capable of causing a fairly painful sting with their front legs (called forcipules). The venom is toxic to humans, so a sting could put you in the hospital and can be fatal to small children and infants.

[5] I was told by the locals that "Coahuila", the name of the state which includes Monclova (and Monclova's original name), comes from a Náhuatl word, quautli-la, which meant something along the lines of "abundant forest" referring to the extensive pecan forests. Wikipedia suggests an alternative (also from Náhuatl): coatl-huila "flying serpent". See state name etymologies.

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