More thoughts on Safety and Security

Last week my husband’s nephew L. was kidnapped and tortured. He was taken from the street along with his mother’s moto and held just a few blocks from his aunt’s house. He was stabbed twice in the back and had his ear nearly cut off with a machete. He escaped after 3 days of torture, naked and handcuffed. He was picked up  and taken to the hospital where he was stitched up. Three of of the four sequestradores (kidnappers) were arrested according to police. His mother sent L. into hiding.  He has just turned 20.

Is this boy evil enough to be tortured?

Is this boy evil enough to be tortured?

Being the mother of a son, this incident awoke a deep-seated fear in me, albeit my son is only 12 and a good boy. But you see, when I met L. he was 12 and a good boy too. So as parents, my husband and I began rationalizing away our fears. L. must have done something to deserve this treatment. Therefore it was karma, justice, etc. And as our son hasn’t done anything so bad that he would be kidnapped and tortured, he would be ok.

We had rationale for our thoughts.  This isn’t the first time L. has been involved in a violent attack. A few years back, his liver was damaged during the 13 second initiation beating rite of Sur 13. (See On Safety and Security) Then his mother’s boyfriend did a stint in jail for possession not so very long ago. (See Failing at your own business–Taxi Service) Part of his gang membership obligations included selling pot. He also used pot to cope with the constant pain he still has from his injuries. Is that enough to deserve torture? It hardly seems so.

If it wasn’t something he himself did, perhaps it was who he was involved with. As a street pot distributor, he would know who brought the drugs into town. Three days after L. escaped, two suspected drug distributors were murdered in Moroleón, one of them a transito (traffic cop).

You won’t find much of this information in the local newspaper, although other newspapers in Guanajuato have picked up on some of the assassinations and have reported on them or rather reported the gory details after the bodies have been found. But as Moroleón is a small town, no matter how much it wants to believe it is a city, the information spreads, although in whispers now.

The story being told is that someone turned traitor against those who previously were in “charge” of Moroleón and have been given permission by los estados (State Police) to eliminate those still remaining with the understanding that future control will be given to this person. These bodies that are “found” are executions. No one is ever arrested. No one is brought to justice.

Aliada al cártel de Sinaloa, La Familia domina Guanajuato

Ejecutan a 5 personas en Moroleón

Una menor de 16 años entre los ejecutados en Moroleón

Balacera en Moroleón; al parecer hay cuatro muertos November

Lo ejecutan amarrado de pies y manos

Ejecución múltiple; hallan a cinco sin vida

Ejecutan a hombre en Moroleón

The body count has become so high, that the powers that be have prohibited the local radio station to announce “fallecidos” which is how most friends and family members learn the day and time for the funeral and novena. (See La novena)  I expect their reasoning is, see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil.

So as parents of a pre-teen boy, we hope that the executions end soon. We increase our vigilance over our son, although he resents the restrictions. We look for talismans to hold out as wards against evil. Be home before dark. Come straight to where your dad is working from school. Don’t visit L. Bring your friends to our house rather than going to their houses. Will it be enough?


My son is not involved in gangs or drugs, but that wasn’t protection enough for the students in Iguala. And we already know that there is no justice to be found in México. (See On Life and Liberty) (See Justice for All) What more can we do?

Así fueron los últimos momentos de los estudiantes desaparecidos en México


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Women in Mexican History–Stories from the Revolution–Marcelina

train adelita

The role women were thought to play in the Mexican Revolution has been typically confined to the caricatures of the Adelitas. Although women did fight alongside their men, the Adelitas were not the only women involved in the revolution.

girl revolution

Claudia Guzes, a Mexican friend of mine, told me some stories about her family during the Mexican Revolution. With her permission, I have translated these stories and am sharing them to give name to some of these anonymous Women of the Mexican Revolution.

Claudia shares:

This is the story of my great-aunt Marcelina Magaña López, my great-grandmother’s sister, Alta Gracia Lucina Graciela Magaña López, originally from Moroleón, Guanajuato.

My great-grandmother Alta Gracia Lucina Graciela Magaña López told my mother some of the stories about her life during the Mexican Revolution. It was a difficult time for women. Soldiers, whether for or against the revolution, were known to kidnap women and girls, who were often not heard from again. Therefore, the people of the town and individual families would make special efforts to hide all the women and girls when soldiers came. Once the revolutionaries arrived in Quiahuyo and my great-grandmother, only a child at the time, asked the soldiers if they had come for las muchachas (girls). She told them that all the girls had already been hidden, which made the soldiers laugh. With good humor, they left without any girls that time.

women in the revolution

My great-grandmother also told me a story about her brother Patricio Magaña López. He was in the habit of heading out to las mezquiteras en el cerro (large areas of mesquite trees) early in the day to work in the fields. One day, he was walking before the sun had risen and literally ran into bodies of soldiers (or rebels depending on the perspective) that had been hung near the entrance of Quiahuyo.

She also told stories about the difficult life of her older sister Marcelina Magaña López. Marcelina bore 8 children, four boys Antonio and Jose Luz (Chito), Eliazar (Eliaser), and unnamed baby boy and four girls Guadalupe, María, Josefina and Bertha. During the Revolution, her husband, Hermenegildo Pérez, decided to fight with Venustiano Carranza sometime between 1910 and 1913. His particular group patrolled Chihuahua, Zacatecas, la Sierra Madre and up through Texas.

Marcelina was in constant fear for her husband’s life when he was off on patrols while she was at home with the children. This wasn’t an unfounded fear. When rebels were caught by los federales nearly all captives were killed. Once Hermenegildo’s group was captured and somehow he managed to not get shot. He hid among the dead bodies of his companions, pretending to be dead as well, and survived the revolution, although his proximity to canons during the war caused him to lose much of his hearing.

When Hermenegildo did get a chance to visit, he told Marcelina where he would be so that she could come and join him but did not give her any money for the journey. Despite the objections of her mother, Marcelina went, taking all her children with her. The journey was difficult and made more so by the fact that Hermenegildo had to change his location often to hide from los federales (Federal troops). The family traveled by boxcar from one area to another.

Food also was another difficulty on the road. Marcelina and the children often ate tortillas stuffed with nothing more than quelite del campo, an edible plant found along the sides of the road and abandoned fields, or other types of foraged vegetation.   One of Marcelina’s daughters,  Bertha,  died when she was only a few months old as a result eating unripe peaches.


At times, the family sheltered under bridges. It became such an ordinary event for the children that when they finally were able to return home, her son Chito would cry because he wanted to sleep under the bridge again and not in his own bed.

On one of the familly’s trips to San Luis Potosi, Marcelina gave birth to a baby boy who died a short time later.  She left her other children behind and went to pedir limosna (charity) to buy the casket.   On the road, she met with two menwho were moved by Marcelina’s grief.  They took Marcelina and her infant son to the panteon (cemetery) in their car and helped her bury him.   The men promised that while they were alive, there would always be flowers on his tomb.

Both Hermenegildo and Marcelina survived the revolution. Hermenegildo became pious, reciting the rosary whenever the opportunity presented itself, and died at the respectable age of 80, although partially blind and completely deaf by then. Marcelina died much younger at the age of 60. It is most likely her life was shortened by the hardships she endured during the revolution and the “reconstruction” afterward.


This period of history, although now glorified with parades and fanfare, was devastating to many Mexican families. Thousands of families fled to the United States during the Revolution. The story of two such families, that of the Villaseñores and the Carmargos, parents of Victor E. Villaseñor are told in his biography The Rain of Gold. The accounts of these families are similar to Marcelina’s story, girls hidden under piles of chicken shit, women raped, traveling by train, high infant mortality, and families separated and destroyed. Villaseñor’s grandmother, mother of 19 children, lost all but 3 of her children during the war. And what did all this suffering accomplish?


The conditions which sparked the Revolution, inequality of the distribution of wealth, censorship, extreme government control, are still present in México. Talk among the campesinos (farmers) is that it is time for a new revolution even as the government tries to repress it. Recently 43 students have “disappeared” (see Anatomy of a Mexican Student Massacre) hauntingly reminiscent of Tlatelolco student massacre of 1968.  There is no doubt that women will be involved in this new period of civil change.  It remains to be seen exactly how.  (See Also Crisis in Mexico: Could Forty-Three Missing Students Spark a Revolution?)

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Alternative Farming–Gleaning

maiz sorgo

And when you reap the harvest of the land, you must not do completely the edge of your field when you are reaping, and the gleaning of your harvest you must not pick up. You should leave them for the afflicted one and the alien resident.–Leviticus 23:22

November is harvest month in central México. The corn has been stacked to dry and the pumpkins piled high. The winter crop, garbanzo, has been planted and if the rains hold off, by now it should be about 3 inches high.

But the harvesting isn’t done. Maiz sorgo is also ready to bring in. This grain plant is a favorite of chickens and pigs. (See Miss Piggy didn’t bring home the bacon). It isn’t a crop we plant, since humans don’t typically eat it, so we have to obtain it through other means.

thresher sideTherefore last Sunday, we headed towards Cerano to see what we could see. And lo and behold, there was the maquina (thresher) mowing through the fields of maiz sorgo. My husband excitedly pulled off the road and leaped out with his costales (grain sacks) and machete.

thresher dumpingHe asked the people in the fields if he could apepinar (glean). It is courtesy to ask, but nearly never is it denied. Gleaning, if you aren’t already familiar with the term, consists of collecting the fallen crops that la maquina (thresher) didn’t get. It isn’t difficult but it is tiring going up and down the rows looking for leftovers. The trick is knowing where the thresher is going next to be one of the first to stake your claim.


We followed la maquina (thresher) for a few hours and came home with 4-5 costales (sacks) of maiz sorgo. Not too shabby, but certainly not enough to last all winter.

thresingAnd she (Ruth) continued to glean in the field until the evening, after which she beat out what she gleaned. –Ruth 2: 17

The next step is to thresh the grain heads so that the little seeds can be stored better. This involves some heavy stick beating. After that, we give the chaff to the goats and scoop the seeds into a barrel. If there is enough, we take the seeds to the molinero (miller) and have it ground to dust. If there isn’t, we feed it as is to the chickens as part of their homemade “scratch” (grain mixture).

Being a gatherer isn’t such an onerous life as you might think and an important part in our harvest.

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Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Back for more–Round 3

Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

Regional Hospital in Uriangato.

The next Sunday, my husband had his rescheduled appointment at 11:40. Again, it was an all-day event for a 10 minute consultation. The doctor, not the doctor who operated on him mind you, said it was just a small hernia and that wasn’t the problem. She ordered a slew of blood work and told him that if he wanted to see his surgeon, he had transferred to the hospital by the Deportiva.

He went to try and schedule his blood work and was told that now only 35 fichas (numbers) would be given each day and that he would have to get the yellow receipt that says the lab work would be paid for before getting an appointment. (See Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Round 1) So when the cashier opened, he got his receipt. The man at the register said that all those tests would not be covered by Seguro Popular even though we have no contributivo (no co-payment). My husband had to pay 75 pesos to cover all the tests. Then he came the following morning to stand in line for an appointment. His appointment was scheduled for 10 days later.

With his appointment slip and yellow receipt, he was able to get his lab work done. He picked the results up during the week and went to see if he could get an appointment with the surgeon at the other hospital. There he was told he could only have an appointment if the doctor agreed to see him. He waited around all day, but no luck. So the next day he went back to the Regional to schedule a follow-up appointment now that he had the lab results. There he was told that since he normally comes on a Saturday or Sunday, he could only come to schedule the appointment on a Saturday or Sunday. So on Saturday, he went back and scheduled the appointment for the end of the month.

He saw a different doctor this time. This doctor said that his blood lab results were fine. This doctor said that yes, his hernia was not repaired, however there was a risk involved in a second operation. The doc said that there was a chance it would be better, but a more likely chance that it would become worse. So he told my husband that he should schedule another appointment in a month, after he had time to think over his options. Well, my husband has thought it over and decided not to have the operation. I expect that is what the system wanted him to decide all along.

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The Day of the Dead–El Día de los Muertos



Explaining the significance of this festival to someone who has not experienced El Día de los Muertos is challenging. The facts are there, easy to find in Wikipedia or other “impartial” sources, but until you stand in front of an altar built for someone you know, you won’t understand.

There are actually 2 days in the festival known as El Día de los Muertos. During these days, it is believed that the door between the living and the dead is opened for a time and the spirits of the dead come to visit those that remain behind.

November 1st is known in the area that we live in as El Día de los Angelitos (The day of the Little Angels) and is a day to remember children that have died. As these are private, family gatherings, there is little to note except that there is typically a mass held for the deceased child (See Luctuoso) and toys are brought to the crypt or tomb and left. Special prayers are directed to La Virgen, who lost her own child, in this time of remembrance.

zapotec figure death life

A zapotec figure representing the duality of death and life.

The more public and better-known festival is November 2, El Día de los Muertos and its traditions have more to do with the indigenous Mexican than any supposed Catholicism influence. The pre-hispanic goddess Mictecacihuatl was known as the Lady of the Dead. She was honored during harvest rituals with fire and incense, images of the dead, food offerings in ceramic vessels and flowers. From these traditions comes the modern Mexican belief that souls continue to exist after death in an area similar to the Catholic Purgatory but once called Mictlan, a place of silence and rest. There the souls waited, not for reward or punishment, but for this day when they can return home to visit their loved ones.


(La Muerte) Death is still a Lady in México, now personified as La Catrina. Most Mexicans like to think that the popular image of the Catrina is ancient, but the truth is this caricature of vanity was first drawn by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada about 100 years ago to poke fun at mestizos (mixed-blood) or indigenas (native people) that pretended to be European. Diego Rivera first used the name Catrina and helped popularize her in his mural, Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central.

suenos de una tarde

Regardless of her origin, La Catrina reigns during los días de los muertos.

face paint catrina

Another Catrina-related tradition, is the writing of calaveras literarias (death poems) that poke fun at death. In these short, rhyming verses, La Muerte comes and indiscriminately passes by or takes those mentioned by name in the poem.



An altar in honor of Frida Kahlo.

An altar in honor of Frida Kahlo.

In Moroléon, deceased national and local public figures are honored with altars built in El Centro. More often, altars are build in the homes or at the panteón (cemetery).

An altar in honor of a recently deceased local baker.

An altar in honor of a recently deceased local baker.

baker altar sign












Pan de muerto.

Pan de muerto.

The altars may include marigolds, salt, favorite foods presented in ceramic dishes, pan de muerto (a luxurious sugar bread only available during these days) tequila, candles, incense and special personal items.

flower petal art

Each item has its own special meaning and reason for inclusion.

marigold cross

Marigolds are called Flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead) or cempasuchil (Flower of 400 lives). I imagine it came by its name, since each petal has the potential to become a future marigold plant, hence each blossom can have many future lives. The strong scent of the flower is thought to lead the spirits home. Sometimes paths of petals lead from the cemetery to the home.

traditional alter

A dirt cross is included at times to remind the living that “From dust we are and to dust we will return.” (See La Novena)

copal altar

Copal is the resinous sap of a tree, and has been burned as incense since the time of the Aztecs as an offering to the gods. On the Day of the Dead altar, the scent attracts spirits, drawing them home. It is also used to cleanse the area and to ward off evil.

An altar in honor of the deceased Mexican comedian Cantiflas.

An altar in honor of the deceased Mexican comedian Cantiflas.

Colorful tissue paper, papel picado, is cut into intricate designs and strung to flutter over around the altar. Holy days throughout the year are marked with papal picado strung over processional routes, reminiscent of their use during pre-hispanic rituals.

sugar skulls

Sugar skulls and figures on sale in el Centro.

You may also find calacas and calaveras on the altars. Calacas (skeletons) are carved wooden or ceramic skeletons often presented in joyous or lewd activities. Calaveras, are sugar skulls made with the name of the dead person written in sugar icing on the forehead and eaten by a relative or friend in honor of the dead.

A crypt decorated for El Dia de los Muertos.

A crypt decorated for El Dia de los Muertos.

At the panteón (cemetery), during this two-day period, families usually clean and decorate graves with ofrendas (offerings). In our case, it meant a trip to my mother-in-law’s crypt, bringing marigolds, candles and a bottle of coke, her favorite beverage. There were hundreds of people at the cemetery, some with lonas (tarps) set up and camp chairs, others perched on buckets playing cards. The families stay long into the night beside the tombs of loved ones telling stories and remembering, weeping and laughing. Some brought mirrors in hopes of getting a glimpse of the soul as it stops by for a visit. For this one night, the dead are not gone, but brought back through the memories of those that remain.


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Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Back for more–Round 2

Archivos at the Regional Hospital in Uriangato

Archivos at the Regional Hospital in Uriangato

The following Sunday, we were back at the Regional Hospital for my husband’s doctor’s appointment. We arrived at the crack of dawn to get a ficha (number) and wait in the Archivos waiting room until the doctor arrived. Well, my husband waited inside, I stayed outside. Those security guards are sure on top of things. And I waited and waited.

At 9:30 my husband came outside and said that the doctor was scheduled to arrive at 11 a.m. and he was hungry. We scrounged around for change and he went and bought two cups of watery arroz con leche, it should have been advertised as leche con un poco de arroz and a hard as rock bollillo (roll). He went back in at 11 a.m. and was told that the doctor would arrive at 2:30 or so. He asked to have his appointment rescheduled, which was written in his little pink book or so he believed.

My doctor’s appointment was scheduled for the 30th. Fortunately, my lab results were in by the 28th. On the 29th, I was organizing my paperwork for the doctor’s appointment and happened to look in my little pink appointment book. To my horror, my appointment had been crossed out and rescheduled for some point 2 months down the line. The way I had been feeling, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it until then without a refill on my prescription. I freaked out. Seems like my husband had given the archivos lady my little pink book instead of his. Therefore, he didn’t have an appointment and mine had been changed.

Well, nothing to be done but try. We dragged our sorry butts at the break of dawn to the Regional the next day and took note of whom we would be following when the time came to line up. When the desk opened, we lined up. When we arrived at the desk, we explained the situation. The archivos lady made my husband’s appointment and gave me a ficha (number) to see the doctor that morning. Whew!

I checked in with the nurse’s desk, was weighed and measured, checked for diabetes, and had my blood pressure taken. The nurse didn’t think that a doctor would be coming as there were some urgent cases in the hospital. We sat down to wait anyway. Around 10 a.m., I got tired of waiting. A doctor had arrived and was seeing patients, but I didn’t think he was the doctor I was supposed to see. He most certainly wasn’t Dr. J. (See Seguro Popular–Dr J.) So I got up and went to the nurses’ desk to ask, but there wasn’t anyone there. So I went further up to the nurse’s station to ask. I showed my pink book—however as the appointment for today had been crossed out, I had to explain what happened. I was getting a bit cranky. As it turns out, while I was up at the nurse’s station, my number had been called.

Discovering that unpleasant fact when I returned to the waiting room, I rushed the door to the consulting room when it opened the next time, darting in front of a large elderly man. Near tears, I told the doctor that I was number 3 but had been at the nurse’s desk when he called. He nodded and sat down. I told him of my condition and that I felt terrible and here were my lab results. (My TSH level was 40. Normal is under 4.) He asked some questions. I answered. He checked his email on his phone. He told me to sit on the examining table. He checked his phone again. He came and checked my heart and neck. He went back to the desk and checked his phone again. He looked at my chart. He told me I had gained weight. I responded that it certainly wasn’t because more food was available. He checked my lab results. He told me that my TSH levels were bad. He gave me a prescription. Told me to take 2 pills, not 1 and come back in November for another blood test. I left. The entire consultation took less than 10 minutes. I had been waiting 6 hours.

I went and had the prescription filled at the pharmacy at the hospital. Took 2 pills immediately. Went on about my day.

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Mexico’s Seguro Popular–Back for more–Round 1

Blood, feces and urine accepted here!

Blood, feces and urine accepted here!

Six months after my last doctor’s appointment, it was time for another blood workup for hypothyroidism. That’s what I was scheduled for, that’s what I did, even though I had been out of medication for nearly a month and felt awful!

So Sunday morning, I was up and ready to go at dawn, even though the office wouldn’t open until 8 a.m., it being Sunday and all. Having learned from experience that it is a first come, first serve basis for EVERYTHING in México. I marched myself in, without having eaten or had my morning cup of coffee like a good girl, asked who was the last person to arrive, took mental note that I followed the guy with the blue cachucha (baseball cap) and sat down to wait.

At 7:40 a nursey-type person came into the waiting room and told us that we needed receipts from the payments office before we had our blood draws. What? I sat and pondered that a moment and then asked the lady next to me. She showed me a yellow receipt and said I could get it from the office behind us without much hassle. Well, since I didn’t have the receipt, it was a hassle. I had to get up and get in line at the window for the receipt along with about 20 other people.

The lab opened around 8:20 and those with receipts lined up. The payment office was still closed. I lost my place behind the blue chachucha. The security guard kept telling us we were blocking the aisle and that important people couldn’t pass. So someone asked when the payment office would open so that we could get out of the hallway. The guard said sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on Sundays. Gee thanks!

Some of those in the receipt line tried to hop back over to the blood draw line, but were sent back, tails between their legs. Now it was 8:40 and the lab started calling out patient names and here I was still in the dratted receipt line. Finally, someone arrived, but didn’t open the window until he finished his morning coffee and bolillo (bread). So we waited.

The man behind me commented that it seems the whole purpose of this process was to get us to lose patience and go to a private doctor for our health needs since we (nearly all of us line) had seguro popular no contributivo (no co-payment public health insurance) and therefore there wasn’t a reason to check to make sure our “insurance” would cover the lab work and get this receipt. I commented that if I had the money to go to a private doctor, I certainly would not be wasting my time standing here.

So we continued to wait. Eventually it was my turn. I handed the clerk my seguro popular paper and the lab work authorized by Dr. J. He looked at the paper and looked back at me and determined I would be the spouse, not the primary beneficiary, nor the child. Good thinking on his part. Then we went through the “my last name is F not E and E is my second name” rigamarole. He typed it in and printed out a yellow receipt for me saying that Seguro popular would cover the lab work.

So I went to stand in the lab work line, which was much shorter now. When it was my turn at the window, I was pleased to discover I was nose level with the feces and urine samples lined up there. We went through the “my last name is F not E and E is my second name” rigamarole again here. The lab tech guy gave me a paper that didn’t have a date stamped to pick up the results but said that I should come back in 15-20 days for them since the TSH test was “special”. I pointed out that my doctor’s appointment was in 2 weeks and he said that maybe it would be in before then. Okie Dokie.

Then I sat down near the other door to wait to be called.

Meanwhile, my long-suffering husband had been waiting outside. He snuck in, past a distracted security guard, to see what the hold up was. I gave him the seguro popular paper and his little pink cita (appointment) book and told him to get himself an appointment with the surgeon who did his hernia operation a couple years ago and a physical appointment for our son who needed a medical release form to start secondary school in August. My husband trotted over to archivos (archives) to do just that.

Blood draws done assembly line style!

Blood draws done assembly line style!

All good things come to those who wait and eventually I had waited enough to be called into the blood drawing hallway. The normal seats were taken so I was herded to the way back part next to the freezer full of samples. The guy looked at my arm and seemed taken back. He squeezed and prodded and couldn’t seem to locate a vein he liked. He asked where blood was usually taken–well my arm obviously. Did he think the jugular would be a better spot? More poking and prodding. He wrapped a rubber glove around my upper arm and jammed that needle in. Then flipped off the rubber glove tie which smacked me in the face. I had a bruise for a week from that prick.

He asked for the labels and I told him I didn’t have any and that the vial should be marked “especial” which he did. Then I was free to go.

Cruz Roja in Moroleon

Cruz Roja in Moroleon

My husband also accomplished his mission and had an appointment the following week with the surgeon, however archives said our son’s physical would need to be done at CAISES. (See Seguro Popular –getting started )That did not happen. We took him to the Cruz Roja, paid $100 for the physical and $50 for the blood type analysis instead. The process took less than 15 minutes. The amount of time we saved was well worth the money.

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