Photo of Pepe Luis Maya Ceballos

Cecati is a vocational school in San Cristobal that has workshops, tools and equipment for professions in textiles, woodworking, metallurgy, jewelry, ceramics and crafts. Pepe, Arely and I have been taking camiones to their machine shops to build an aluminum mold and design a compressor using AutoCAD.

I’m telling you. In an artisan-dominated place where most things are made by hand, finding all the advanced tools and materials to do more industrial work is difficult! To cut the aluminum mold (which has a melting point about 400*C) we literally took turns to saw the metal block in half, and it wasn’t a chainsaw either. Ow, my arms, and so much metal flecks everywhere. Maybe I should ask my dad to Fedex one of those Crafter’s Hot Knives and melt the thing cleanly in half. At least there is soldering, TIG and MIG welding.

While discussing what was and was not possible in building our compressor with a preliminary design, my mind wandered to lot about industrial processes, about the factories I had seen in the United States, and how automatic and computer-dominated they were. I remembered the machine shops we attended in MIT. So digital and wonderfully complete. A toy store of industrial things. I also remembered some of the precision machinery in China, Taiwan and the Philippines, and how certain companies made prototypes with those enormous laser-cutters, and these were places even poorer than San Cristobal.

Then again, I am in Chiapas and everyone here likes its things handmade and homespun, and pointedly *not* mass- or machine-produced.

With regional development, it’s important to understand clearly what tools people do and don’t have to work with. I think Su was right when she said that within industry there is synergy in emerging nations, that to eliminate North America or Europe would be a tremendous opportunity…and I am glad that our perspectives are grounded with real experience. How privileged to learn all this terminology and basic mechanics again in Spanish and to befriend and collaborate with all these engineers AND have had known industrial factories in Southern China in Chinese, AND in English too. AND to have the shipping freight contacts within my own family.

Anyway, rewind back to the real world. Real problems. This is the third day that our plumbing system lost its vacuum and the water pump is down. Therefore, there has not been any tap water for these days, and we have a tank from which to draw buckets of water for occassional use. I’ve been too busy to build a fire, and then heat bathwater in a caudron over the stove. So I have been saving my trips to the bathroom for every time I go to town, and I’m getting stinky. I think I am going to break down and get the hairdresser to wash my hair. At least maybe she could style it.

Spanish Words of the Day, mechanisms: “torno” lathe | “espumidor” foamer | “soplador” blower | “placa” plaque, plate | “pleca” blade | “casilleros” cubbyholes, locker, pidgeonholes | “valeros” (ball) bearings | “resfuerzos” reinforcements | “vulcanizar” curing rubber” | “parilla eléctrica” electric grill | “tope” buffer, guideline, limit | “cobalto” cobalt | “grabados” engravings | “tornearse” to turn on a lathe | “pinza automatica” automatic tongs, tweezers | “llave dinamométrica” torque wrench” | “dientes de sierra” the jagged blade of a saw | “linoleo” linoleum | “lamina” thin sheet, plate