Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the April 7, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'

As I type this at 3 PM on a typical afternoon in the community of 28 de Junio the temperature stands at 97° (36° C). The only sounds are an old hen clucking nervously two houses away, tinny poppings my tin roof makes when it's sunny, and wind up from the valley shaking my roof sheets on their supports. The sky is a shiny silveriness, bluer overhead, almost white at the horizon.

To our north clouds gather around bluish highland peaks. Sometimes by now the peaks are obscured by white rain but today it's just white, billowy thunderheads overhead. There's only been two or three dust-settling showers here since I arrived in January.

April is the hottest, hardest-to-deal-with month. It's the end of the dry season when everything is so brittle and brown that the landscape almost looks dead. Heat builds day after day as the sun's path irresistibly rises higher and higher into the noon sky. Maybe in late April or early May we'll have our first big storm.

"After that first storm, it gets worse," Don Bartolomé assures me, his shirtless, dark-red torso shining with sweat. "After the first 'aguacero' the heat works with the rain's humidity and it gets harder and harder on us. But then the second storm comes, usually a bigger one, and finally things start cooling down."

By July and August, from about ten AM each morning, it'll be so cloudy that the sun won't heat things up so much. In October and November there may be days and days of almost continual rain, and then it'll be cooler. Everything will be green and mud will be smeared everywhere.

I asked Don Bartolomé whether storms come from the north, off the Gulf of Mexico 175 miles away, (280 kms) or from the south, off the Pacific 75 miles away, (120 kms).

"When I was a child, big rains with cool winds came up from the south," he said. "But now nearly all our rains come from the north. Everything has changed. On the average, it's much hotter now, not as many pleasant days as there used to be."