I had a phone call from Mexico last night, and of course my first question to my caller was about the swine flu. Erin Dunigan is a ministry student with PCUSA, a friend of my daughter’s, and a free-lance writer for the Presbyterian News Service. She splits her time between California and Mexico, and she was calling me to conduct an interview for the upcoming moderatorial year.
I imagined that everyone in Mexico would be walking around wearing face masks, and avoiding other people as much as possible, but Erin quickly disabused me of that perception. Where she is, in Baja, it is many miles from Mexico City (over 1,700) and life goes on pretty much as normal. No one seems to be excessively worried about the virus, she says, and given the beautiful climate, life in that part of Mexico sounds very pleasant indeed.
Erin’s call and thoughts of life in Mexico, reminded me of Jimmy Kennedy’s famous song “South of the Border”, inspired by a postcard he received from Tijuana, Mexico. In the lyrics, a man looks back with regret and pain for having lied to the woman he can’t forget (“…and now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray…”) and returned for too late, just as she was preparing for marriage. But the cool rhythm and swing of the 1939 song counteract the remorseful lyrics. It was good enough for Gene Autry, Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline to record. And it was one of the songs that made Jimmy Kennedy the most successful British songwriter in the US prior to Lennon and McCartney.
More seriously, life is not pleasant for everyone in Mexico. And it seems we are facing a real, global problem with swine flu.