Since my last post, Easter has come and gone here in our little state of Colima. Normally my village is very quiet, but around holidays it is transformed. It becomes a village bursting with color, music, dancing, singing, parades and processions.
This year, however, it was very somber. Normally, when it is not a holiday, there are children running around and playing in the village square, women congregating in front of their houses or inside their houses and men congregating in the square. Now it is like a ghost town.
Mexico is a very religious and Catholic country, and all the churches have been closed for a while. My neighbors will “attend” the Mass either broadcast from Mexico City or from the Vatican. Schools have been closed, restaurants that are still open serve takeout only.
The governor of our state has been very diligent about the public taking precautions to stay safe. Those precautions, possibly in addition to the fact that we are a small agricultural state, has led to our good fortune to only have had 7 positive cases and no deaths from the pandemic. Cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara have been harder hit, but they are more urban and crowded – sometimes reminding me of New York City.
Children are receiving their homework assignments from the teachers, given a due date, and then their families return the homework to the teachers and receive their next assignments. We will have to wait and see when the schools might open again.
I have been somewhat busy with gardening – replacing my almost-dead, dried up rosemary plants with 5 new ones, discovering a still-alive cherry tree sapling that I had forgotten about as it was “buried” in an overgrowth of weeds and ground cover. I also planted 10 bell pepper plants, and my chayotes are starting to produce more than I can eat by myself.
Also, there’s my banana trees. Three of them are producing at once. When they are ripe, there will be a total of somewhere between 150 and close to 300 lbs of bananas.
The area which our literacy project, Project Amigo, serves has a lot of poverty, so I will be donating my excess fruits and vegetables to them to distribute to those who need it.
It’s also Sugar Cane Time !!!!! Recently, our ground was covered with black ash which resembles strips of burnt paper. That lets us know that the owners are burning the sugar cane fields and soon the cañeros – the sugar cane cutters – will be in the fields cutting the stalks of cane that are left after the leaves, etc. are burned away. Once the cane is dried in the fields, it is loaded onto huge trucks and taken to the refineries. A few days ago, I started to see these cane trucks on the road. As the season progresses, we will be seeing many trucks driving by every day.
As you might be able to tell, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in spite of the pandemic Cows still need to be milked, farms still need to be tended, and then there’s construction. Road repairs, work on houses, all those people are still working, but there are only a few men at a time, not large crowds of people.
And then there was Palm Sunday and Easter. For Palm Sunday, the people in the village were told they could attach any kind of branches they wished above their doors, and so they did. For Easter, there were Masses broadcast on television or the internet.
For me, thanks to modern technology, I was able to attend the Easter service of my old church in New York, the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen. It was nice to see familiar faces, first the pre-recorded service and then attend “Coffee Hour” live via ZOOM (?). For this special occasion, I actually got dressed up, even though I was alone in my livingroom.
And I would like to take a few minutes to share some thoughts with you about being a foreigner, no matter during extraordinary times or normal times. I have lived here for 4 years, and been a permanent resident for almost 3 of those years. I do not live in an expat community and therefore speak Spanish probably 90% of the time. I can manage with daily conversations, though my grammar and vocabulary are still lacking in many ways. I am trying to improve my grammar so that I sound more like an adult, rather than a foreigner.
Anyway, I can tell you that what others might perceive about foreigners is not what we feel inside. Inside, I know that I am a professional, I have a degree and worked as a professional for 45 years. Outwardly, it is often hard to express myself in a second language which I only began to learn as an adult, and this might make me seem “less than” to native speakers. There are many nuances to languages which are not taught in school, or local dialects and expressions which you will not automatically know or understand.
Here in Mexico, I have found nothing but acceptance in my community, but I know that the foreign-born living in some other countries are not accepted or not considered intelligent if they do not have total command of the language of the country in which they reside. So I am asking that if you know or see someone for whom your native language is THEIR second language, that you take this into consideration, and maybe say something if you see them being mistreated or made fun of, compliment them on their efforts to speak your language or ask them how they are doing and learn something about their life.
Anyway, I’ll get down from my soapbox for now and wish you and your loved ones safety and well-being and hope that for whatever holiday you may have celebrated, it brought you some comfort.
Until next time, remember that we are all in this together.
Peace to all of you.