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Living Versus Belonging in Mexico

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

I moved recently. My girlfriend's place, here in Colonia Allende (up Cinco de Mayo) where I am now, gets a lot more sun than my little cave in Colonia San Antonio did and does. Using that comparison as what TS Eliot called an "objective correlative," I guess, also, I am better able to receive emotional warmth and sunlight.

Our arrangement still affords me a lot of privacy. My girlfriend goes off to work three days a week and a fourth, Friday, I largely spend in my office down in San Anotonio putting out my newsletter. Then, we plan on renting and are already somewhat occupying the two floors above her place, one a full apartment and the other a lofty single room with an over-sized veranda. We are not going to fully occupy the space, or pay rent, until it is all finished, but we have already started decorating... with plants.

We went to Candelaria three times this year, moderating our purchases the first two trips and going hog wild the third. The woman from Puebla from whom we mainly bought the previous two visits, made us an offer when we returned late in the afternoon of the last day of the fair. Indicating over half her remaining stock with a an expansive sweep of her arm, she said it was ours for $1500 pesos. Without thinking twice, without dickering, without more than a glance towards my girlfriend, I reached in my pocket and produced the sum. For the Jews the Eleventh Commandment is, "Thou shall not buy retail."

I had been moving my things up the hill little by little. Then, last week, on Civil List, I bought a refrigerator, a necessity for the second floor apartment. Yes, I could hire a taxi camioneta (truck) for $200-250 to move it from Los Frailes where it sat, but, in accordance with the Eleventh Commandment, I had another idea. I wanted to make one trip, first to San Antonio to pick up my washing machine and spare mattress and box-spring and then to Los Frailes to get the refri. We live up the street from our landlord, who sent over the keys to the second floor (by our common cleaning lady), and agreed (by WhatsApp) to provide his son and truck to make the haul. After 3 days of not hooking up, I wrote it off as just another case of Mexicans having a hard time saying, "No," and looked up the block for my relief.

Colonia Allende es bien Mexicana (is really Mexican). It's almost an extension of Valle de Maiz, a native (Pame) village that was here before San Miguel existed. The question to ask here is not, "Were you born in San Miguel?," (of course, they were born in San Miguel), and maybe not even, "Where you born in Colonia Allende?," but, "Were you born on this street?" So far the answer has always been, "Yes." There is a gringa living up the street who I've seen walking her dog once, and a couple of foreigners on the block aside of ours, but other than those, I, with biblically long hair and white beard, am it.

Aside from going across the street to borrow a clove of garlic when the market was closed, my interaction with my neighbors has been limited to greetings in the street. My journeys up the street, a dead end, have been mostly on trash days to meet the truck on its way back down. (We have so little garbage as we compost all our organics for the plants.) But two days ago, I ventured up in search of a truck whose owner had the neighborliness, time and desire to earn $200 in exchange for my intended haul. I called out, "Buenas tardes" to Fernando, an iron-worker, who was working in his shop in front of his house and aside his full-size Chevy pickup. Explaining my purpose, he asked me when I wanted to go. I said, "Today." He said, "Let's go now." When I told him that I had some groceries to unload from my car and began to explain which house was mine, he told me that he knew where I lived.

I like old pickup trucks. I like the people that drive them. I had one myself in northern Vermont. I like country people, campesinos as they're called down here. I was reminded of this two weeks ago when we went to the village of La Huerta to deliver a hand-loom to the mother, a new employee, of an existing weaver of my girlfriend's clothing. A week before, when the mother was visiting us in Colonia Allende, after lunch, at my girlfriend's prompting, I gave the woman a dose of homeopathic Arnica for an injury she sustained two years earlier, when she violently fell back against an iron cable. When we delivered the loom, she told us that the Arnica worked wonderfully, enabling her to care for her alcoholic nephew, who suffered tremendously in her house during his final demise just that week. Contrary to the elitist prejudice of the Social Justice Warriors currently in control of the Democratic Party (the "catastrophic failure of the left," that brought us President Donald Trump), people in the country are far from stupid or ignorant. In fact, they are closer to the earth. They are more in touch with the natural order, the real economy of life. In the city you can indulge in countless fooleries. But in northern Vermont and in the Mexican countryside, if you don't have your act together, you're going to die.

Years ago, a newcomer to San Miguel mentioned that he felt a distance between the Mexicans and the extranjeros here. I asked him, "Have you tried saying hello?" Driving over to San Antonio with Fernando we made small talk, mostly with me telling him how much I liked Mexico and Mexicans; "In comparison to gringos, Mexicans have less material luxury, but they live better. It's like alcohol: after two or three drinks you dance better. But after four or five, you get sloppy. Food is great when you are hungry, but after that, you can overeat. Too much sex is also a problem. It's the same with money. People become addicted. People get hurt by the excess. Their hearts become hard." At my house, we wasted no time, efficiently moving the washing machine and bed, from their various places, onto the back of his truck, where he threw a rope over it all and we started of for Los Frailes.

I'm a good worker and, a good worker having respect for another good worker, the conversation on the way to Los Frailes deepened. Fernando, told me about his work: learning the trade as a youth and now working in rich houses. Passing the glorieta at La Comer, I asked him why there was a police presence at practically every corner the last few days. He told me, "People are being killed. One was shot this morning. One was shot last night on the road to Atascadero. There have been fifty in all. A new gang is trying to move in." I had heard something of this, that the new municipal administration had failed to keep order. "The police are worthless."

We arrived at Los Frailes, loaded up the refrigerator, standing up behind the washer, between the mattress and box-spring, pulled the rope around it and started off for home. On the last leg of our journey, I observed to Fernando (less eloquently in Spanish than in the English translation that follows) that, "Mexicans need one another more than do people in the US. In the US, I would have had to hire a professional mover to make this trip. Yes, they have the money to pay for this, but they lose the personal interaction. And then computer and smart phones being more dominant in the north, absorbing people's social tendencies into a virtual space, digital technology adds strongly to the estrangement and alienation of people, one from another."

On our arrival, Fernando's dog who recognizing the sound of his truck came down the street, greeted us. We brought the bed upstairs ourselves. Then a neighbor, Coco by name came over of his own accord to give us a hand with the appliances. The washing machine made it as far as the second floor. (I think it still has water in it.) The refri made it inside our apartment. (We will swap it for the smaller one we are using now and bring the smaller one upstairs.)

Last evening setting off on my bicycle ride up towards Valle de Maiz (I ride up to a turn in the rode which offers a great view of the city and the Presa beyond), I greeted Coco in front of his house talking to another neighbor aside a beat-up, beautiful blue pickup truck. Coming back 20 minutes later, now ready to set off, astride his motorcycle in the middle of the rode, he laughingly observed that I was taking my exercise, "Ejercicio?" "Si," I smiled broadly in concurrence, slapping him on the shoulder twice without breaking my stride.

My place in San Antonio, at the end of an alley, is a lot quieter than it is here in Colonia Allende. Here the Libramiento is closer and rattle-trap old trucks pass noisily over our cobble-stoned street. One in particular always drew my annoyed attention, noisier than the others as it barreled down the street with some regularity. But now I've had a change of heart. Now, along with Fernando's dog, when I hear his truck I get a pleasant, homey feeling. To be in Mexico is good. To be in Mexico and belong here is great.

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photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David has invested years of his life and more money than he cares to reckon into his global Lokkal project, an event calendar and searchable directory/business network for towns and cities around the world, combining aspects of Facebook, Google and Trip Advisor. Think: Digital Town Square. Think: the yellow pages for the new millenium. See more. A madman crying in the wilderness for years, reinforcements are recently arriving, the A team is assembling and preparations to launch in other cities are being made, gracias a dios. Interested?

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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