Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 9

Treading the Sidewalks of San Miguel

Find Chapter 1 HERE  Chapter 2 HERE   Chapter 3 HERE
Chapter 4 HERE
  Chapter 5  HERE  Chapter 6 HERE Chapter 7 HERE  Chapter 8 HERE.                                                                                         

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 9


            I was trying to write a letter home for our friends to circulate among themselves. I knew that many had already traveled to Mexico and so they would be most interested in the people we had met. Who were the people we had met in San Miguel?  I began to list them. The first was the woman who gave us her map, but who severely dealt with each child who tried to sell her a cloth doll or old woman who held out her hand for coins.  There was the man who explained to me that I must sign my name to the list of people waiting to see the insurance officer at Lloyd’s, then return at 1 to wait for her.  There was Yvonne, the receptionist at Lloyd’s who spoke flawless Spanish and equally flawless English.  When I asked her whether she was Mexican or North American, it turned out  that like me, she was born and raised in South Dakota. 

            The morning of our first day in San Miguel, we met Ernesto, the Mexican gentleman who told us he had 5,000 acres in Baja near Bahia de Concepcion , who split his life between Key West and San Miguel and who spent his life, it seemed, meeting people at the Biblioteca or in the Jardin. Most importantly, so far, he was the one who introduced us to the Posada de los Monjes.

            We met him at various times for an hour or so and during these times he brought a tray of small cut stones and asked us to choose one as a gift, then showed us an opal from the mine he said he has outside of town.  “I am not trying to sell you this,” he said, but I wondered.  “One day I will take you to the mine. I will show you.”

            Later, over margaritas and Coronas, he told us fantastic stories of the millionaire who had given over part of his hacienda for a school where Ernesto would teach lapidary to poor children, of the man who offered him full use of his yacht to use, charter or live in if he would just arrange for permits to berth it in Mexico and let him use it a few weeks a year.  But when he had approached a friend in government to ask him to expedite the permission to berth the yacht in Mexico, the friend had been disdainful.  “Are you a yachtsman? “ he asked.  “What do you know about boats?  You are a man of the city.  What do you want of a boat?”  So Ernesto had regretfully turned down his other friend’s offer.  As we walked down the street with Ernesto, he begged our pardon and crossed the street to talk to an old man.  When he returned to us, he told us that the old man had 7 ranchos and no sons.  He wanted to give one rancho to Ernesto. 

            “Every time I see him, he asks me if I will have one of his ranchos.” 

            “Why don’t you take it?” I asked him.

            “I am no rancher,” sighed Ernesto.  “Do you want a ranch?”

            “I am no rancher either,” I told him.  “I just got rid of a ranch.” 

            I started to explain to him that I was a rancher’s daughter who had inherited part of his ranch, but Ernesto was not the least interested in who I was or in my stories.  He wanted to tell me his. 

            He wanted to tell me about the time in Bahia de Concepcion when a young man came to him and asked to buy $1,000 worth of land.  Ernesto didn’t want to sell his land, so he asked an elderly friend, who had beach property adjoining his, if he wanted to sell the young man beach property. 

            “Have him choose his land,” said the old man.  So Ernesto took the young man to the beach and he chose a small piece of land. 

            “But I have only $l,000,” said the young man. 

            When they took the old man the money, he said, “This young man wants my land? “

            “Yes,” said Ernesto.

            “And he is a friend of yours?”

            “Yes,“ said Ernesto.

            “Then the land is a gift.  I do not want his money.”

            Then, as Ernesto told it, the young man spent the $1,000 to put up palapas and buy hammocks.  The people who came with boats stayed in the palapas while they fished and then another man started flying in fishermen to fish.  In two years, the young man owned a boat and an airplane and to this day was a wealthy man.  Every time he saw Ernesto, he stood on the table and shouted his praise and thanked him for contributing to his great wealth.

            Ernesto was full of such stories.  He had inherited a mansion from his Mother in New Orleans, but he hated New Orleans. He once had owned 15,000 beach front acres in Baja, near Mulege, but the government had nationalized all but 5,000 acres, which he still owned.  Later, he admitted he had given the land to his daughter and ex-wife.

            “All of it,” he told us, making outward brushing movements with his hands. 

            Ernesto was a pilot, a lapidarist, an opal mine owner.  He brought us a “Town and Country” magazine which sported an article on the homes of Canadian expatriate artists  in San Miguel.  The woman artist with the horses and the huge house and the art collection was his friend, he said.

            Once he was married, but his wife just wanted him as a chauffeur, he told us.  And he cooked for her.  He did all the cooking.  Finally, when she became an alcoholic, he divorced her.  Then he had a girlfriend who dreamed of driving across Canada. 

            “Take me to Canada,” she said to Ernesto.

            “And I almost did,” said Ernesto.  “Then I thought, I had one wife who wanted me to drive her.  I don’t want to drive anymore.”  So he said no and sold the car.

            “Do you still have the same girlfriend?” I asked.

            “No,” huffed Ernesto, making the same brush-away movements with his hands.

            In two days he would take us to the hacienda, he said, and introduce us to his patron, who had given over a part of the hacienda for an art school for the poor.  He had said that we might rent a room in the hacienda, said Ernesto, for not very much.  For $18 a night, he said.  We would take Dirk with us. 

            Dirk was the man with the house that Ernesto wanted us to see.  He had had open heart surgery just two months before, and we feared for his health as he rushed around, moving as fast as he talked.  Dirk had as many stories as Ernesto.  At eighty, he had a Mexican wife who appeared to be in her forties.  He had children in their fifties and a stepson in high school in Miami. Like Ernesto, he was a pilot and a lapidarist.  He rushed to our hotel to pick us up to come see his house.  He parked a block away and ran uphill to get us, then back down to the car.  Panting, he told us about the points of interest along the way as we circumnavigated the roads around the city.  That hotel belonged to Cantinflas, he told us.  This house on 15 acres belonged to a rich Swiss couple.  See how their property was like a park?  This studio was of a Canadian painter.  See how large her studio was?  Behind that wall was a swimming pool and tennis court.  Here was the shortcut to Gigante, the huge shopping mall.  Here was his route to the bus.  We hurried into the house for a quick run-through before rushing back to town to pick up his wife.  He had gotten the times wrong.  He should have told us he would pick us up at 7:15 instead of 6:15. Then he could have picked up his wife on the way.  She insisted on working to give meaning to her life.  He should have put his foot down because it was really a bother to take her and pick her up, but it made her happy.  She was a big town girl.  To her, San Miguel was a village. 

            He rushed us into his house, through the rooms.  This computer he would take with him to Miami, but we could use the computer table.  This cat came with the house, but must stay outside as it was not declawed.  It ate one scoop of dry cat food in the morning and one at seven at night.  He always placed the food here, on this bench.  But the cat stayed always outside.  This was their patio.  Here were the orchids he told us about.  They had a gardener, which we might keep for $4 a week, but they had fired the maid.  His wife was Mexican, and liked to do things herself. I rather liked the house, but Bob told me privately that he found it too small. We decided, however, to tell this to Ernesto instead of Dirk, hoping to let him down easier as he seemed to have such hopes that we would like it.

            Then we rushed back to the car and back to town.  This was the mirador  (scenic overlook) he said, but we didn’t stop.  This was the other mirador, he said, a few minutes later.  As we sped by, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful panoramic view of the city.  Again, he grew short of breath and I asked if this was healthy for him to rush so much.  “Oh, that was eighteen months ago,” he said.  “I’m all right, now.”  Earlier, he had shown me his identification card, for some reason, but covered his picture with his thumb.  “The picture was taken right after my surgery.” he said.  “I looked awful.”  “I’ve lost 14 kilos since the surgery, but I’ve gained some of it back again.” 

            We met Susan, a Colorado girl with a Texas accent.  The married mother of three small children, she ran an internet exchange and mailbox business as well as a real estate business on the side.  She told us of the rich German woman who had set up a maternity hospital in a poor section of San Miguel––of how she was now so famous that her story was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

            When I asked Susan about the fantastic sculptures we had seen along the road between El Paso and San Miguel, she told us that the government had built them.  She was disapproving.  There were so many in poverty, and they built sculpture.  It made me regret my shallowness in delighting at their beauty, yet I couldn’t help it.  I loved the beauty of Mexico and sought it out while people who were undoubtedly my betters dealt with the pregnant mothers and worried about the poor.

            Did art serve a purpose in the world?  Bob thought so, and I did, too, in the abstract.  But did art feed the soul enough to atone for the hunger of the poor?  Philosophers more able than I had dealt with the matter, but I knew I would have to deal with it on a more personal level in order to live with myself.  Once all of this business of moving was over, I would need to consider this.

This entry was posted in Books, Prose on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

8 thoughts on “Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 9

  1. Pingback: Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 8 | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  2. serendippitysays

    I’m back to reading blogs only once a week, so I haven’t been reading your longer posts, Judy. But today I did, and I enjoyed this one. You really captured the hurry, hurry of Dirk in the way you narrated the details. I hope to read chapters 1-8 later today.


  3. Pingback: Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 10 | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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