Then summer left us, without even saying adiós

Without pausing to bring us our essential yearly quota of rainfall, summer at the ranch has come and gone, and we’ve slid into fall with a landscape that is already sere and yellowed.  

I don’t have any official figures, but the artificial reservoirs surrounding San Miguel appear to be shrinking, instead of bursting and even flooding surrounding areas. A friend who has a ranch nearby figured we’ve only received about ten inches of rain, or about one-third normal. 

What’s causing this apparent drought is not “climate change,” which nowadays is blamed, often correctly but frequently frivolously, for every hiccup in the weather. We should blame climate change only when weather fluctuations reoccur over several years. 

Instead, we’ve had enough rain in recent years to top off reservoirs, including our own cisterna, revive dry creeks and send them gurgling merrily, and fill the farmers’ bordos, the big rain-collection holes excavated as oases for livestock. If anything, we may have been getting a little too much rain. 

Six weeks ago, seemingly on schedule, we received some overnight rains and the dry creek near the ranch sprang to life, but as more rain didn’t come, it swooned and turned into stagnant ribbon of water. I haven’t been near it, but the scenic reservoir, visible from our back terrace, likewise seems abnormally still and gradually getting covered up by a mantle of purplish weeds that, while attractive from a distance, probably signals declining water levels. 

The state of Guanajuato maintains a set of weather charts and measurements, which suggest, perhaps too optimistically, that our rainy season lasts from mid-May to mid-October, with the rainiest days coming in mid-July. That scenario doesn’t seem to have materialized this year, at least not in San Miguel.  

Rather than climate change, I can mention a couple of far more fanciful explanations for the lack of rain.

One is bad luck or a moody God, depending whether you’re a believer or not. I spoke to Don Vicente, a farmer across the road, whose extensive corn crop is going to wilt and die unless we get some rain, and soon, and he rolled his eyes and pointed to the sky: “It all depends on the Man upstairs.” How can you argue with that?

The second explanation is a conspiracy by the owners of a new solar panel farm somewhere on the outskirts of San Miguel. According to a report on local TV stations, and conveyed to me in all seriousness by Félix, the solar panel operators don’t want it to rain, so they’ve hired small planes to spray the clouds with a secret substance that causes constipation in the clouds. 

“There we go,” says Félix as he points to the sky whenever a single-engine plane goes put-putting overhead, as if that proves his theory. 

I tried to explain that cloud-seeding is usually done to provoke rain, not prevent it, but ni modo. So I placed this theory in my mental  Mexican Magical Realism folder, along with the one about lunar phases predicting the gender of a baby about to be born, and a number of cactus-based medicinal concoctions. Did you know that drinking pulque aids male potency and fertility? Unless, of course, you drink too much, which will leave you flaccid and plastered. 

A most likely reason is that hurricanes that rev up in the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, and then plow inland bringing us rains, this year instead glanced Mexico and headed north, many of them toward the southern U.S. 

It’s frustrating, in a very self-centered way, to read reports from the Cotton Meteorological Observatory in Melaque, on the Pacific Coast, and watch video clips on American television stations, about torrential rains and people in the path of a hurricane wandering around in knee-deep mud, shaking their fists at the clouds. 

That while here at dried-up Rancho Santa Clara, we keep looking anxiously at our weather app on the phone, hoping for any chance of precipitation, and keep coming up with zero. This morning’s forecast doesn’t predict even a teaser of rain until next week.  

I feel morally conflicted, in a way, to secretly hope for just one more, possibly destructive, hurricane to tumble in our way, as long as it brings us some rain. 

My conundrum reminds me of a friend of my dad in Cuba, who owned a funeral home near my grandmother’s house. Somewhat apologetically, he once told me, “Alfredito, I don’t want people to die, but my business to prosper.”

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