Archive for November, 2008
Walking home last night, we stopped in the jardin. It’s decorated in white lights and Christmas scenes. Every seat was taken and the night seemed friendly, almost celebratory. Friday night tends to raise energy levels while people parade around the square. But I think the lights created the festive mood.
I’m grateful for the American language students who volunteer their afternoons at Buen Pastor. Each afternoon, they spend two hours helping the girls with their homework.
It’s given the girls role models and made a world of difference in their grades as they’re invested in them now. It’s also channeled their excess energy into homework and positive relationships with these students who care about them. Overall, there’s a spirit of cooperation that fosters direction, hope, friendship, and pride. For this, I am thankful.
Yesterday was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. F and I had planned to go to Buen Pastor to drop off some baby clothes and pay the madres and girls a visit.
On the way to the bus station, on the Road of Devastation, we witnessed a girl fight. As we approached two women, they broke into a fight, pulling hair and hissing at one another. The men with shovels put their shovels down to watch. The men in the bulldozers stopped as well. I noticed they were all laughing. Women fighting amuses them. I wondered why that is? Why is it when men fight, everyone takes it seriously? When women fight, it’s funny. I asked F what his opinion was, and he said that men often kill each other. Unsatisfied with that answer, I still haven’t been able to come up with my own.
We spent a lot of time at Buen Pastor. I’m continually impressed with all the work the madres do. The girls are thriving. The women in the shelter look healthy, safe, and happy. Madre Lourdes looks tired. She took me aside and told me that it was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I told her I knew. She told me that one day, she’s going to carefully plan her words and tell the government that constantly sending more girls and women to the convent without any support for them or for the madres who take care of them is a form of violence.
On the busride home, I listened to the driver telling his passenger-friend a story. The driver use to drive a taxi. One night, around one or two in the morning, he saw a man beating a woman. As she laid on the ground, he kicked her. The driver pulled up in front of the couple and turned his brights on which caused the abuser to flee. He then got out and tried to help the woman into the cab. Moments later, the attacker was pointing a gun at him and telling him not to interfere. Given very little choice, the driver left. However, he returned moments later to see if the woman was ok, and the couple was walking and holding hands as if nothing had occured. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, the driver and his passenger-friend had a good laugh. Mujeres.
IREE, a school for deaf children in SMA, risks closure. This short, informational video talks about the school and the students. I especially appreciate how many of the mothers attend school with their children to volunteer and that the school has become a second home for the children.
We spent the day in Atotonilco today. Atotonilco is a casual fifteen minute busride from San Miguel. It’s best known for its sanctuary, El Santuario de Atotonilco, referred to as The Sistine Chapel of the Americas for its elaborate ceilinged paintings. The scenes are especially bloody and brutal and according to sacredsites.com,
. . . are among the most gruesome and somber paintings in the world. The central image is of a horribly bleeding Christ. All around him are other tortured, bleeding, dying and decaying people. The murals are darkly painted, darkly lit, and the whole place has a somewhat depressing energy.
It’s also a holy place of pilgrimage. Thousands come each year, some crawling and bleeding from their knees, others flagellating themselves and wearing crowns of thorns. We saw plenty of places that sold flagellators and crowns of thorns.
Yet, despite the somber build-up, I quite enjoyed myself! In fact, it was so nice to walk around in the dirt, see all the creative ways pain and suffering are sold, and smell wood smoke all day. I especially appreciated all the brightly colored, layered, and unmatched ensembles the old women put together. It was almost like they were reverting back to the time when they first began dressing themselves as little girls and selected whatever bright and favorite thing they liked, and then more of it altogether and at once.
After the sanctuary, we walked around the town. It’s very small and you reach it by crossing a stream. Here we found another Church, modest and Mexican (as opposed to Spanish). In the courtyard, a lively brass band–all dressed in black suits and pointy white shoes–played while little boys chased each other and parents and grandparents sat in the shade. Before them, another band had played, and there was another waiting for the brass band to finish. It’s St. Cecilia’s birthday, Patron Saint of Musicians. So there’s more music than usual this weekend which is quite possibly next to impossible.
These six programs are divided between five madres at Buen Pastor, all over the age of 65. Talk about a busy week!
- Weekly foster care: The convent cares for 29 girls, ages 3-18. The girls come from violent homes and/or from dire poverty. Most spend the week at the convent and go home on the weekends. The convent pays for their basic needs: food, school tuition, uniforms, and clothing, and offers a nurturing home during the week.
- Shelter: The convent protects the lives of abused women and their children. During their three-month stay, the women are given psychological and legal counseling. They’re also taught a trade so they can gain independence from their abusive husbands. Currently, there are 7 women and their children in the shelter.
- Medical Clinic: Buen Pastor offers a free medical clinic for the poor living in the surrounding areas.
- CENTRO A CASSA : The Centro a Cassa program is a free computer instruction course for adults so that they can boost their skills and employment prospects.
- Dorms: The convent houses young female college students attending the University. These women are from poor families and would not be able to attend school without free boarding.
- School: The madres run the school Training the Young Guanajuato. The school was founded in 1970.
It’s like Berkeley for retired people.
Even if San Miguel can keep its precious look intact, can it maintain its elusive, mystical feel? The author believes only time will tell. I believe it can’t. With ever-increasing numbers of North Americans retiring here, a developing suburbia, Starbucks, inflated real-estate, decadent developments, and limited water, it’s only a matter of time before it loses its cobblestone, Mexican charm.
However, this well-written articles provides a balanced view of both opinions. It’s a very good representation of the feelings here in San Miguel. It also links to interviews of folks who have retired here and why they love it so.
Everything is closed today in celebration of The Mexican Revolution of 1910. There was a half-marathon this morning which I nostalgically watched from the sideline, wishing Bethany was here to train and run with me because it looked like a great race! Afterwards, I got my shoes-shined and they look brand new. Then I watched a little bit of the parade from my doorstep with Patty. We rent from Patty and her third child is due today. Her firstborn was born on El Grito, her second on another historical day which I can’t remember, and this would make a third child born on a day “muy Mexicano.” She’s hoping for a girl as the other two are boys.
Speaking of little ones: a sweet couple donated a bag of small girl’s clothes to take to the convent. I’ll be delivering them to the 15 year old mother on Tuesday.
The photo above is the latest installment of the Guanajuato mural. The four below are priors, painted on the same wall.
We went to visit Madre Lourdes and the convent yesterday. It was absolutely wonderful seeing the girls again. I hadn’t seen them for some time and they have grown! A few of the ones who were there three years ago are taller than I am now.
Madre L caught us up on what was going on. One of the girls is new and has a hard time sleeping. DIF brought her to the convent after her three year old sister had been raped, killed, and harvested for organs.
And there is a 15 year old from Chiapas living in the women’s shelter with her daughter. Her father pimped her out for years. When she gave birth to a baby, she got enough courage to run away with her infant and somehow ended up with Madre L. Her daughter is a little over a year now and healthy, but she needs clothes and baby things as the convent doesn’t have much in this way. The madres are hoping she’ll give the baby up for adoption, but she wants to keep her baby. She’s been at the convent for 6 months and seems to be doing alright. She’s a child herself and I wonder what will happen to her when she leaves the security and stability of the shelter?
Sometimes, when I think I have problems, paying Madre L a visit puts everything to perspective.
Last night at salsa, the tables were decorated with candles. This is the first time I had seen candles at Bovedas. Wrapped around each candle was a piece of paper with the following typewritten note:
May this bright light
kindled around the earth
continue to shine until,
candle by candle,
heart by heart,
Peace becomes the Victory.
We light this candle
with the powerful intention
for good and for the flame
Pass it on.
Capilla (f) a small church or chapel. This one is located on a corner on Ojo de Agua.
Mexico’s World Heritage Sites :: Both San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato are World Heritage Sites. This short video talks about the challenge in balancing between restoration and conservation while benefitting economically from increased tourism when designated a World Heritage Site. The clip is located in the multimedia column, left, first click.
The other day I noticed a rooster on a trolley. There was a string tied from his shank to a pulley overhead. The pulley was attached to a cable that stretched between two trees, about six feet apart. Interesting, I thought, a rooster on a trolley.
When I told F about it he joked that the rooster was either an andariego or mujeriego, or possibly both. Mujeriego is a good word to know. Essentially, he’s a womanizer or one that loves to go with all types of women all the time. Women women women. There’s a guy at salsa that we call El Mujeriego. Every time we see him, he’s chatting up a woman or has his cell phone out inserting her datos. He’s rugged, handsome (both in a Clint Eastwood sort of way), over 70 and has danced with just about every regular at Saturday night salsa.
I like andariego even better. This is someone who loves to walk. Someone who roams. An itinerant wanderer. There’s also a word in English that begins with a “p” that better matches the idea of andariego… I just can’t think of it right now.
Part of the road leading from the immigration office is being worked on. Once I pass the sign that reads Devastación, there are bulldozers, men, and dirt. Cars are not allowed, so pedestrians walk freely in the middle of the road veiled in dust. I squint my eyes to get through so I don’t dirty my contacts. I carry a heavy backpack of fruit and vegetables that I buy near a stand at immigration because it’s the best and cheapest in town. I always sweat on the way back and the dust clings to me.
Yesterday, as I walked, I saw a big black dog on the side of the road. He was dead and his eyes bulged out from his sockets. Nobody stopped to take a second look. There were little girls playing on the workman’s wooden boards. They were barefoot, dirty, hopping, and happy. There was an old woman sitting on the side of the road with her hand stretched out for pesos. Her face was so lined, I imagined the dust setting in her wrinkles even more. Every ten steps, the workmen’s music changed. All of the songs were loud. Walking in this hazy chaos, I felt as though I were a part of the entire scene. It didn’t matter if I was white, or healthy, or educated, or young, or old, or inbetween… it just was. We were all on the road of devastation with an erratic Mexican music station. There was something deeply comforting about simply belonging.
I finally received my FM3 yesterday. As I walked back on Devastación, I calculated that between the half hour walks there and back and the time spent waiting in the immigration office, I’ve contributed 19 hours of waiting and walking which isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I was actually waiting and walking.
We went to the Sunday market in Querétaro last Sunday. I am used to seeing pirated movies being sold in the open as well as pirated music. But I have to say I was a little shocked to see all the pirated software, neatly packaged and openly sold for a fraction of the real cost. I couldn’t imagine vendors blatantly selling a copy of Dreamweaver, Word, or Adobe Illustrator for $15 at the Eugene Market.
I also attended the San Miguel de Allende Rotary Club yesterday. They’re doing some wonderful projects here such as a water harvesting project, a day care for single mothers who come from the campos to work in town, and funding for the relatively new hospice that’s been built here and is getting a lot of use from Mexicans which was a surprise to everyone.
I attended the meeting because one of the girls’ homes was presenting their needs to the Club. They were asking for funding for a number of things including money for a new building and a nutritionist. I’m currently writing a small grant for the GTO madres and Madre Lourdes has asked for a new refrigerator, material to make curtains, money to pay for school tuition for the girls, and basics like this. So I was interested in hearing what the other home’s needs were.
The charitable organizations in San Miguel are lucky because there’s a rich base of philanthropic ex-pats here building and investing in their community, like the Rotary Club and many others. Guanajuato doesn’t share this base to pull from. So while a nutritionist and a new building is considered a necessity to an orhpanage in SMA, GTO’s needs are much closer to the bare minimum.
I turn in the grant on Friday. It will be my first one. If you’re reading this, please send some good wishes my way. I do believe in the power of collective, positive thinking. More specifically, imagine a brand-new energy efficient refrigerator if you will :-).
I got lost taking a new way to buy my favorite tortillas and found a gem in San Miguel de Allende, the street Ojo de Agua. In the beginning, the homes were luxurious and beautifully crafted. As I ascended the hill, it seemed as though the people, dogs, and homes had been perfectly preserved and, except for the telephone poles, that I was walking back in time some seventy years ago. It was lovely.
In other news: there’s no gas or hot water this morning. I’m interviewing in three hours and hopefully will have had the opportunity to shower by then by either braving the cold or restoring the hot water. If we’ve got the camera thingie on, I don’t want to scare my prospective colleagues with my morning smurf hair.