Mexican life

Strolling the streets like a Gachupín

IT WAS LATE afternoon on Sunday. We were walking the block and a half from the Hacienda to the barrio plaza.

I was wearing saggy, gray sweatpants, a newer, gray sweatshirt, a gray, wool beebop cap and, incongruously, tan loafers by Dockers.

You look like a Gachupín, said my child bride in español, using the derogatory Mexican term for a Spaniard. Maybe I did.

She is not fond of Spaniards, a sentiment shared by many Mexicans.

It’s similar to how Social Justice Warriors feel about Chris Columbus and the crews of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, hauling their Spanish privilege.

My child bride studied six months in Spain in the middle ’90s. She loved the food but concluded that Spaniards, for the most part, are sangrones. Grumps and arrogant. Her favorite dishes were paella and fabada Asturiana.

She also went to a bullfight in Madrid, more to watch the people than the bulls. It wasn’t until a decade later than I attended my first bullfight. I went with her in Mexico City at the enormous Plaza México.

In Gachupín mode, I continued with her to the plaza where we sat on a steel bench facing the ancient church. I had my Canon, so I shot the video. Were it not for the minivan the scene might have been filmed a century ago.

The church — 16th Century, I’m guessing — is undergoing renovation.

You can’t see it here because they started on the roof. Contributions were solicited from neighborhood residents months back, and we ponied up 1,000 pesos even though we never use the church, and I’m no Catholic.

The music was coming from behind us on the far side of the plaza. Mexicans usually get dressed up on Sundays and walk around their plazas, but the people in our hardscrabble barrio don’t uphold that tradition.

After sitting half an hour, we moseyed home and watched a movie on Netflix. I traded my Gachupín gear for pajamas that were not gray.

 

Mexican life

Effects of sunshine

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leal

death

THE RAINY SEASON seems to be winding down, so we’re getting more sunshine in the afternoon, which inspired me to set out yesterday, my man bag slung over my shoulder, the contents of which were my Kindle and my Canon.

I took these three photos for you. From top to bottom:

  1. The yellow building is the oldest church in town, and that’s saying something. The white extension to the left, which appears to be a add-on, and likely was, is now multipurpose. There’s a theater,* lots of rooms for art exhibits and other spaces for workshops. It keeps pretty busy.
  2. This is a fairly new hotel, the Casa Leal. The Leal family are local bigwigs who own lots of businesses. They seem to be good people. If the church steeple in the back looks familiar it’s because it appeared here in a black & white shot from another angle just a few days ago.
  3. Long-time readers might recognize this place too. The upstairs windows open into the bedroom where my brother-in-law accidentally shot himself dead about ten years ago in a “cry for help.” His wife had kicked him out, and he ended up in that room not knowing what to do next.**

It was a lovely day to walk around downtown taking pictures. It’s not like I have a real job or anything.

* * * *

* We saw 2001: A Space Odyssey there just a few weeks ago. It was fun, the first time I’d seen it since it came out in 1968. The end still didn’t make a lick of sense, however.

** Those windows were featured in a Nescafe coffee commercial a couple of years later. A woman is standing in one of the windows right at the end. The commercial also has some other good scenes of our mountain town, but Nescafe made it look more Italian than Mexican in my opinion. It’s a great ad.

Mexican life

Church walk

skyview

I WENT ON a church walk yesterday.

There is no shortage of churches here. You’ll find big, ancient, elaborate ones on about every other block, which strikes me as kind of nutty. How many do you need?

They’re Catholic, of course, 100 percent.

The one in the photo is the oldest in town, and I took the shot from a patio of another church right across the street!

Crazy Spaniards.

Just before taking the photo, I was passing through a walkway of the church behind me. I shot the video below. The music was not added. It was a bunch of folks in the room to the left, singing away in a New-Age style. Their arms were up in the air.

All manner of stuff happens here.

Mexican life

Church work

church
Scaffolds abut the church as guys do the much-needed renovation.

ABOUT A DECADE back, folks knocked on the gate and asked for a contribution to construct a short bridge over a ravine a few blocks down our street.  It would have solved a serious traffic glitch, so we kicked in 200 pesos.

The work on the bridge began, but it never finished, and remains undone to this day. The traffic glitch lives on.

A couple of months ago, folks again knocked on the gate and asked for a contribution to renovate the church. They asked for lots more, 2,000 pesos, about $115 U.S.

My wife mentioned what happened to the last money we contributed for neighborhood projects. Oh, no, this time it will happen, the folks declared.

Being community-minded and knowing the 500-year-old church on the plaza was on the point of collapse, we handed over the cash, mentally kissing it vaya con diós.

But religious projects trump street work any day hereabouts, so the church renovation is under way, and I have no doubt it will be completed. I am glad even though I am neither Catholic nor Christian. Architecture matters.

In the almost 15 years we’ve lived in our hardscrabble barrio, and the thousands of times we’ve walked the plaza, I imagine we have not stepped through the church doors more than five or six times. The same cannot be said of our neighbors. The church is the focal point of the community.

The weddings and funerals we witness there are numerous. There is no priest in residence, so masses are sporadic.

One cannot help but wonder why the Pope, who is likely richer than Bill Gates, Raul Castro and Carlos Slim combined, does not finance the renovation of his churches, leaving it sometimes to unbelievers like myself.

While walking the plaza this morning, I also shot the photo below. An old, beat-up VW Beetle and an old Chevy Pop like the one we owned from 2000 to 2014. I wonder how often one sees these old Beetles above the Rio Bravo now.

They’re quite common down here even though Mexico halted production in 2003.

cars
History survives in many forms.