Archive for July, 2010
Yesterday, Madre Lourdes took me over to the internado to show me the impressive work of six volunteers. For three weeks, five young ladies and one guy laboriously painted, weeded, planted grass, artfully placed mulch, and transformed the girls’ playground. They even painted a basketball court. It was unbelievable! What’s more: not only did they volunteer three weeks, all day, of their time, they spent their own money on supplies. The girls are going to love coming back to this in September!
Madre Lourdes told me that all the madres were so impressed by the self-initiative these volunteers came with. They had been told to paint the welcome room, and ended up transforming the playground as well. Madre Lourdes told me this is a remarkable example of spirited service. I had to agree!
The volunteers would come and work all day and then stayed with Mexican families when they weren’t doing good things at Buen Pastor. I hope they had a wonderful experience in Guanajuato. I also hope they know how much the madres appreciate what they did. This is truly amazing.
Last week, on a day it wasn’t raining, I went up to the roof to hang our clothes to dry. They’re building a few floors on the house next door and the construction workers, usually talking with one another, were intently listening to a radio show about angels. More accurately, the female host was advising clients on challenges in their lives based on what their angels were telling her. It was an interesting juxtaposition of angelic advice against a backdrop of sweat and hammers.
Then Fernando told me today of Estercita’s run-in at the Santuario. Estercita spent a lot of her childhood being raised by the nuns at Buen Pastor. She’s been a part of this community forever it seems. I’m not sure how old she is because her hair has never greyed. But she’s little, wears braids and plaid dresses, and is either in the kitchen cooking or tending the Santuario. Anyway, today, two young men confronted her and demanded she hand over the keys to the donation box. They told her they would kill her if she didn’t. Estercita, who has lived long and seen a lot, told the boys she didn’t have any keys. Fortunately, they left her alone.
I was astounded. Here, to avoid graffeti, folks paint the Virgincita on an alley wall and the walls are left alone. People walk by the temple and cross themselves. You see acts of reverence and respect everyday. Fernando told me that people do desperate things in desperate times, and these are the worst economical times in ages. But to attack an old woman in a church?
I thought of the boys and their options. Possibly their desperation, which is shared by so many. Lots of kids in Mexico never go past premaria, and many secundarias receive their education via television. This is a country, one that I love, where lawyers become taxi cab drivers because it pays more. Where a University educated person often earns 40 pesos an hour which is just over $3 USD. Where styrofoam plates and plastic bottles line streams and water ways and where monies are continuously misappropriated by self serving politicians.
If only this wonderful Country, full of natural beauty and rich heritage, would spend a fraction of the money it wastes on celebrations & show on creating jobs, enriching education, providing pathways from University to employment, and focusing on sustainable energies and the environment, I believe little old ladies would not be assulted in sanctuaries.
Another shoot for the 2011 Bombero’s calendar was rescuing this pretty lady. Monica was such a good sport. She arrived at the shoot not knowing what was in store for her. She had no idea she would be hoisted and posed with the handsome volunteer firemen of San Miguel.
César was also a good sport. Even though he was a bit hung-over (if we are to believe his bombero buddies), and not entirely fond of the camera, he still managed to statically hold and pose Monica in the hot bright sun that filled the space between sessions of rain.
César engages his biceps and h o l d s .
Holly captures the moment.
César takes a break and Holly instructs Monica on arm positioning.
Monica positions her arms. César endures.
Holly shares the photos with the guys.
Look to the left.
Now to the right.
Holly and Monica like what they see.
I had a wonderful opportunity today to spend some time on a Fireman’s photo shoot. Charismatic, energetic, and professional photographer, Holly Wilmeth, agreed to not only photograph the images for a 2011 fundraising calendar for the volunteer firemen of San Miguel de Allende, but she also allowed assistants like me to share in the fun.
In this scene, the firemen are instructed to blow a kiss and sustain it. So one by one, they came forward to pucker up. You can imagine the playfulness and “encouragement” they received from their partners. In the last two photos, El Capitan does a great job and Holly lets everyone know that’s the example to follow.
On Sunday, Fernando and I perambulated the origins of Guanajuato. We walked among the Spanish ruins for nearly five hours. We followed a stream up into the mountain picking up trash on the way down. I never knew there were so many trails here. All this time, I’ve thought of Guanajuato as cobblestones and callejones.
If this were a clock, I live left of 9:00. To get to this incredible view, I walk down to the Panoramica, through Cerro de Cuarto, across a long bridge that leads to Hacienda de Duran. The walk is filled with music floating from windows and cars, kids running in the alleys, dinner cooking, and every color you can think of.
At the Hacienda, I find a dirt path, a small one. This path leads to a larger dirt path. Today I walked with Fernando, and he ate berries off the cacti. He gave me one, and I never knew cacti produced such sweet berries. The other day when I was with Julie, we saw an old goat herder. He had cataracts in his eyes which made them look like light blue marbles. He saluted us, holding up his arms, each hand holding a drained rabbit. With him was a goat full of milk, bleating. Up a little way, I saw at least a hundred goats, all part of his herd. He was walking slowly with a mother. The sun was long and yellow and in this moment. I feel in love with Guanajuato again, like I do at least once a week.
I remembered the marbled-eyed man when I came across the section in the path today. This time, he wasn’t there, but he had become a traveling song for me in this place. Now everything was every shade of green. The oranges, rusts, yellows, and reds had been replaced with tree green, leaf green, cactus green, and grass green. Instead of music and babies crying, I heard far away traffic being carried up in the conical hills. Bird song and wind. Someone had painted the rocks on our path white, so we knew the way to the cross.
As we ascended the mountain, we fell into conversation with a runner who had stopped for a moment. He spent the next 40 minutes telling us about this place. He’s a 3rd generation miner and knows every path and legend above ground as well as every tunnel below. We learned about “La Aparecida”, or Apparition—a story about a woman who used to bring her husband lunch at the mine everyday. But she was a mala mujer. When he found out she was cheating on him, he followed her home and on the path, and not too far from where we were standing, he beat her to death with his fists. Miners often say they can see her coming down the hill with her husband’s lunch.
He told us about mining, that underground there are pockets of heat so warm, the miners work shirtless. And just a few feet away, it will be so cold, a jacket is worn all day. There are places to sit and converse while you eat underground. It is entirely pitch black so if you turn off your headlamp, you cannot see your hand held up in front of your face. It used to be that miners would work 12 hours shifts. Now, there are three shifts: 6am-3pm, 3pm-11pm, 11pm-6am. Everyone is counted when they go in and when they come out to ensure nobody has been killed or gotten lost, which used to be a big problem.
He told us of all the circuitous paths underneath the ground. Not only is Guanajuato a city of tunnels, it’s a city that has mine shafts connecting all its corners, and even further, extending to the campos beyond. I became entranced listening to how one could travel from here to there, and then from there to another there, and then back to here.
When we reached the cross, I took this picture and admired Guanajuato. I have been every place here, and I know this town well. But I thought of the miner and his knowledge of place—3 generations worth!—of not only Guanajuato on foot, but Guanajuato underground. The legends too. And I realized there is always so much more to learn.
A friend I went to massage school with is offering chair massage for donations to benefit Buen Pastor. The event takes place on Sunday, August 8, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at Sarah’s Massage Office located at 840 Lawrence St. in Eugene, Oregon. If you’re around, please stop by and support Buen Pastor! Thank you Sarah!
Cow watches a group of us walk by on the dirt path connecting Guanajuato to Santa Rosa.
Empty home near Julie’s place.
These last two days at Buen Pastor have been very special. Yesterday, Katie exhibited the secundarias art projects. Our own little art exhibit at Buen Pastor. She hung up all the pieces they have been working on and included artist statements, books, and the girls themselves. You can imagine it was really cool having an art opening with the girls as the artists at Buen Pastor.
Also special was the San Miguel crew coming down and celebrating the end of the school year with everyone. John, Sharon, Yoli, Victor, and Michael ordered a week’s worth of pizza and hung out for awhile: hugging, taking pictures, and being part of our community. It was fantastic and the girls were wild.
Today, the girls families came to pick them up and have an end of the year celebration. Madre Lourdes wanted the families to know that a lot of work goes in to raising a girl, and that it takes many people pulling together to have what we have at Buen Pastor. Fernando created a slide how of photos throughout the year, and it was nice seeing familiar faces in these photos contributing to the lives of the girls.
Afterwards, Madre Lourdes told everyone it was time to give thanks and invited each of the girls and their families to the front to express their gratitude. This part was very touching, and Tere brought a roll of toilet paper to hand off to the next speaker as many tears were shed. Everyone had a different story to share… how Buen Pastor had been hard a hard adjustment at first, but now, it will be difficult to leave. How the parents noticed positive changes in their girls. How everyone was so thankful for a safe and loving place to watch over their child. How each girl taught the others and learned from her Buen Pastor sisters at the same time.
I left feeling buoyant and so alive, and so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this community. There is so much love, hard work, and hopefulness here. There always will be.