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Quixote in San Miguel

Nov. 20, 2022

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold" - Stairway to Heaven, Jimmy Page

Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

She said that we had met earlier. But the first time I remember E. was when I was waiting outside the mall with the dog, for Veronica, who was inside the fabric store. E. came over and struck up a conversation. Seventy-five-ish, well-spoken, she told me that she was helping the poor of the most disenfranchised colonia, along the tracks north of the station. She said that there are murders there every week which the municipal government was hushing up so as not to affect the tourism economy. She said that the powers that be were threatened by and hostile to her activities. Her manner was wide-eyed and breathless, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

Editor that I am, I sensed a story, a series of stories. My publisher's appetite was further piqued when E. mentioned that she had been a professional journalist, producing nationally syndicated podcasts. When I suggested a collaboration E. pleaded digital incompetence, claiming a complete ignorance of how to even email a photo. When I asked her to write something and send it to me, she suggested making an audio recording. She asked me to come over to her place and help get her started. Of the opinion that many people's technical incompetence is a lifestyle choice, I none-the-less agreed, but told her that it might be hard to find the time.

Let me say at the start that I admire E. We become convinced that the only wealth that matters is monetary, that gold is the only thing that glitters. More broadly, in a society that values personal achievement above all, E., community-minded, gave her money away.

Over the following weeks we exchanged a few emails. These confirmed my suspicion that E., to put it mildly, required help ordering her efforts on behalf of the poor. I followed E. on the Civil List, where she posted anecdotes of the needy and asked for alms towards their relief. The theme was, and still is, always the same. Each post illustrated the abject poverty she was trying to relieve; people in dire straits; camping at the bus station; showing up at her door; living in that dangerous barrio north of the train station. Quixotic, desperate, she was, and still is, shoveling against the tide.

As my hope of getting anything resembling a composed article from E. receded, I thought of collecting those Civil List snippets and shaping them into a piece. But then I'd still need photos. I went so far as asking someone familiar with E.'s efforts for photos, but she declined to provide any.

Not long after our mall-side reunion, I saw E. again; this time at a combination charitable event and brand launch; you've got to love this town. We both gussied ourselves up quite nicely for the occasion. We sat together for quite a while, chatting and sampling the hors d'oeuvres. There, both of us incongruous among the opulence, E. told me to Google her and listen to one particular podcast of hers.

The next day, I took her advice, listening to the podcast she mentioned. It was fabulous and fantastic, in the original sense of those words. Like a fable or a fantasy, it featured a black blues musician recounting how, as a child, he learned to play guitar. The website where I found this podcast had others by E. I listened to them all, chronologically.

These documented E.'s decision to move to Mexico, where she could live on what had become little money. They narrated her unfortunate adventures with an unfortunate Mexican boyfriend, including losing her car. They described, first hand, living homeless and trying to wash up, futilely scrubbing at the black embedded into her feet. It was a chronicle of breakdown, a slide into, if not madness, then eccentricity.

Not long after the charitable event E. called me. I don't know how the subject came up, but I mentioned the name of a lawyer who is helping me with a Mexican trademark. On hearing his name, E. launched into a rant about what a bad person he was. Now, the lawyer has only been generous towards me. Then, I have no reason to doubt his explanation that Covid has slowed down the process. Plus, I am already committed to him. Still, during the course of her diatribe, which was probably only two minutes long, but seemed as if it would go on forever, I kept indicating that I was listening to her warnings and would take care.

Finally, when she gave no indication of relenting, I thanked her again for her concern and, I'm afraid, in a somewhat exasperated tone, informed her that I wanted to let the subject drop. We went on, briefly talking about other topics.

The next day I got an email from E.: "I'm sorry David but I decided not to meet with you after all. Too many 'red flags' as they say." I responded to her email, suggesting over several conciliatory paragraphs that, considering the good we could do together, she should forgive my abruptness. To this I received a one-word reply, "No."

Since that episode, already several months ago, I've continued to follow E. on the Civil List. There, her posts confirm my assessment that E. is desperate. First and foremost, she is desperate to relieve the suffering of those around her. But then also, there is a personal urgency. Over the months that I've been keeping track, she's lost her debit card, her purse twice, once on the bus with a few thousand pesos in it, and, most recently, her phone and her laptop in the neighborhood north of the train station.

Some short while ago she wrote about a carpenter whose family was in great need. She suggested that people could help by purchasing small dollhouses that the man makes. When people wrote back asking to see a photo of the dollhouses, she didn't respond. I thought, "This is just the sort of thing with which I could help; illustrate, make an article, make it come to life, but..."

The Bible warns us that gazing directly at ultimate reality is fraught with peril, "No man sees My face and lives." Looking directly at the suffering in the world would overwhelm us. I don't know how, when or where, but E. has lost the filters that the rest of us use to help us sleep at night.

I admire, and share, E.'s sense of the communal. When I mention the world-changing potential of my Lokkal project, which builds the local community online, I get the feeling that the people I'm speaking with don't understand what I'm saying. Hypnotized into hyper-individualism, we do not recognize communal effort, association or achievement. Oh, we may go to church or give charity, but we don't get it like E. gets it. And that's a shame, because the best parts of life involve sharing and belonging.

E., if someone shows you this, and you've read this far, I wish you'd give me a call and another chance.

"Your lunacy fits neatly with my own." - Sea Song, Robert Wyatt

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Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.

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Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.
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