Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I haven’t done an update on Elvia’s family in a long time.  For those of  you who haven’t read about Elvia, it begins with the post titled The Novena and a Tragedy.  Other stories about her family can be found by searching ‘Elvia’

It is now just a little over two years since her husband Jesus was murdered.  Her son Beto had the operation for his salivary gland tumor and that’s gone well.  He’s in the preparatory school for one more year then hoping to go to a university to become a chef.  The girls, Karen, Teri, Paulina and little Lupita are all doing well.

Since her husband’s death, she has been living in her in-law’s home.  She has one room where she sleeps with her four girls and Beto shares with a cousin.  Thirteen people share the home, a caring environment but very close and tight.  She talked to me the other day about not knowing how she was going to be able to purchase new school uniforms and supplies for school for the four girls for the next term, as they all go to new schools this August.

She works full time cleaning and cooking at what she describes as a private home, which often has groups of people for weddings and events.  She makes 1,000 pesos per week, the equivalent of about $85.70 at today’s online exchange rate.  Her normal schedule is 9-3pm but when people are in the house they expect her to work for the same pay but from 6:30 am until midnight.  I think this is not legal and tell her so. She also cleans for me in her spare time, once a week and she cooks full meals that she sells from her doorstep every Friday night.  She is industrious, religious, and a mother hen with her children.

She came to me this week asking if I could help find her more work.  I can’t imagine how she can possibly do anything else.  So I asked her what she really needed.  The looming issue for her now is that the four girls all have to go to new schools in August and she cannot afford the uniforms for the school year, which for 2 sets, including shoes and school supplies are going to cost about $6500 pesos, or about $640 usdls.

I did the math and she would have to work for at least two full months to be able to pay for this.  Then she’d have to work double time those two months to cover her basic living expenses.  This doesn’t include the tuition that Beto will need for his coming school year in the preparatoria (like high school) which, including registration and the 10 months of fees are going to be somewhere around $7,000 pesos.  Another  extra 9 weeks of full time work.

Beto and Elvia At the All Night Pilgrimage From Atotonilco to San Miguel

The day before yesterday, I decided to post to the San Miguel lists to see if anyone would like to help this family with school expenses. We’ve had a nice response and donations are beginning to come in, and I wanted to personally thank everyone who has offered to help.  We haven’t met our goal yet, but the response is heartwarming and Elvia and her family are very moved that people who don’t even know them would be willing to help.  We are still a little short, and I’m sure we will get there, but if anyone out there would like to make a small contribution, contact me through here and I can tell you what is still needed, or if we have met our goal.

Teri, Paulina and Lupita on Viernes de Dolores

I am grateful to all because if there is anyone who deserves a little break it is Elvia.  So thank you everyone.

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In last month’s Corpus Christi procession, Elvia’s son Beto was invited by personal invitation to carry the flowered litter, holding the chalice, in the procession. This is a big honor to anyone, and especially for a devout 18 year old young man.

Early in the day, banners are hung throughout the town and altars go up in doorways and arches where the evening procession pauses at each, for an oration.

2010 Corpus Christi Procession from Suzanne da Rosa on Vimeo.

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For those of you following the stories of our neighborhood, on July 2, our neighbor Petra’s husband Jose died.  He would have turned 69 on July 4th, the day he was buried.  His death was not unexpected, but in some ways a great relief to Petra who was his primary caregiver for over 10 years.  He had a stroke when he was 59 and for about seven years could get around a little.  The last three years he was bedridden and needed complete care.

Under the casket, a cross made of cal/lime is placed, representing the body. After the casket is removed, the cross, candles, bowl of onions (for spirits) and flowers remain for the 9 novenas.  On the last novena, the family divides the cross by the number of people in the family, who take turns placing their part in the container which is taken to the cemetery.

Under the casket, a cross made of cal/lime is placed, representing the body. After the casket is removed, the cross, candles, bowl of onions (for spirits) and flowers remain for the 9 novenas. On the last novena, the family divides the cross by the number of people in the family, who take turns placing their part in the container which is taken to the cemetery.

About a month before his death, she told me he would die before three months was up and took me to see him.  I had not seen him in about 2 months, when he deteriorated from being able to sit in a chair with help, to being more or less frozen in bed. I called hospice and took her to see them.  She had no idea hospice existed and was elated to be able to have some help.  The first step was an evaluation by a doctor who told them that they were very sorry but it appeared he had another 18 months – that the hard work would be hers, as he seemed comfortable.

I was astounded because it was clear that he was not eating, could not move and was not improving.  When it got worse a couple of weeks later, she refused to call hospice for help because she was convinced they did not know what they were talking about and thought they did not really want to help her.

So, in her own stoic, straightforward way, she waited, watched and cared for him at home until he died shortly thereafter.

Being what I would call a very traditional, religious person, she set up the wake in her front living room at the street where the door remained open to the street for neighbors and friends to come by and pay their respects.  The wake began the night he died, when his body was returned to the home and set up alongside an altar that the funeral home provides.  Friends led rosaries all day Saturday, ending with a eerie and beautiful hour long chant at 5am Sunday morning after which food preparations began, followed by a mass at church and burial.

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As you know from the stories of the novenas for Maricela and Jesus last spring, the family hosts nine evenings of prayer, with a meal for everyone afterward. I won’t go into that here because you’ll find it on the links for Maricela and Jesus, but I want to say how impressive the effect of these novenas are.  They are a combination of a prayer group, ritual, social event, fun night for kids, and done long enough for everyone to hear about the death and be able to pay their respects, as you can see by the increasing number of people who attend as the evenings go on.

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Just outside the city limits, on the way to Dolores Hidalgo, there’s a roadside attraction – a mini theme park of sorts called Mexico Lindo.  Enter at your own risk beneath a large, sun-bleached cow skull, facing Christo Rey who resides as a centerpiece in front of a lush palm, welcoming all to this replica of a ghost town.  It’s a zoo of sorts with large iron giraffes, painted carved animals, a carved drunk sitting atop a roof and it houses a very large collection of paintings, carvings and memorabilia. It’s a quirky desert oasis residing on several acres of very relaxed native landscaping.

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Mexico Lindo is really an art gallery. There are hundreds of paintings on wood and metal.  Every saint you can imagine is here along with a large collection of Botero style women and men in all poses from saints to prostitutes to musicians. Old wood cabinet doors are covered in traditional village scenes, fruits and vegetables. It all exists in a setting of cantera saints, skeletons, animals, plus a few modern Navajo style cantera carvings.

The park serves as the family residence and barnyard as well, housing an unknown number of people, burros, roosters and chickens.  The grounds are covered with makeshift buildings and outhouses that have walls made of organ cactus and decrepit antique tequila bars – freshly painted of course. You can even buy a carved deer which has been covered in aluminum and milagros for all the good luck you will need.

On your way out, you’ll find an old hearse. Inside lies an old wood plank coffin, complete with bouquets of fading plasic flowers resting atop. It is elaborately painted with the national symbol of the eagle with a snake in his mouth. A scrolled banner  touting the of the last words of it’s inhabitant decorate the back.  The entire family runs this place, right down to the youngest child who makes sure you have had something to drink, a taco, or a piece of gum.

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We have visitors!
A good excuse to take a little time
To go see various places that we normally don’t go see on our own, and to re-visit old favorites which we love to see over and over.

This week John’s daughter Sarah is here
Next week, his son Robin comes to visit.
Sarah has never been out of the US, missed her first plane but managed to arrive on time, so it was a little nerve wracking.
It’s all brand new and fresh for her.

We began the visit by picking her up
At the Queretaro bus station at 10pm
We came through town to see the  Jardin at night
And to hear some Mariachi music. (more…)

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Esther & Daniel brought an invitation by.
Daniel is the nephew of my neighbor Petra.
Esther is the daughter of the Norteno band.
They play traditional music for dancing and singing at Petra’s parties.
It is the third birthday
Of their daughter Monserrat.
The invitation looks like the top of a birthday cake

They had told me about this party last month,
So I knew but had forgotten until she dropped the invitation off.
I couldn’t quite figure it out though because first of all,
I had forgotten her girl’s names,
Which in a family the size of Petra’s,
It’s not surprising, and second,
I could not figure out from reading it
What a three year old would be graduating from.


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As you’ve seen from the previous posts,
Parties are a really big thing here.
Even the 5 month old baptism party
Is equal to or greater than all the others.
Little Diana was baptized on a Saturday,
In Atotonilco, in what they called
A very special place to be baptized. 
Atotonilco is a very special place
Which you can read about and see photos here 

Diana, 5 months old

Little Diana, 5 months old - it's her day

I was unable to attend the baptism,
But I have been to Atotonilco on other baptism days.
Where families with young babies,
Dressed in the typical white flowing gowns
Wearing white garlands of fabric flowers on their heads
Line up across from the church to register their children.
This is followed by a ceremony at the church,
Where a nun at the front,
shoos everyone who is not an immediate family member,
To the back of the church, so there is room
For the families
To watch the blessing of their babies
By by the priest.

Upon the return to the house,
There is food first, 
Exactly like the description in my previous post

While the family was awaiting the musicians,
The ice cream truck arrived.
The padrino yelled for all the kids to go outside,
Order an ice cream, and he would be out to pay.
So, before cake, there is ice cream all around.
Ice cream trucks here don’t sell the packaged bars.
It is home made ice cream and nieve,
Served out of big metal milk cans
In flavors of mango, limon, guayabana, pina, chocolate.
When in season, there are the unusual flavors,
Zapote, chirimoya, and others.

Kevin hogs the ice cream cup
While Ramon patiently waits,
A worried look on his face,
Wondering if he will get some too.


Little Lupita loves hers and shows me what flavor.


Everyone is quiet, for a moment
while they eat their ice cream. 


While this is going on, the musicians arrive.
This time, four of them.
The father, accordian player,
Two sons, on guitar and drum,
A friend with the bass fiddle. 


They walk right in,
Set up along the back wall,
Under the white balloons and streamers
Which Barbara spent the morning setting up.
You know the rest.
They started playing at 5pm today.
And ended at 5am tomorrow.
Everyone kept chipping in by the hour
So they could dance all night. 
It was the all out baptism,
That’s for sure. 


At 11 pm
I went home to rest  a while
John returned from a trip to the states at midnight.
We returned so he could eat some mole,
Send his good wishes to the family,
Ended up dancing until 2:30 am,
When we pooped out.
The party went on until 5am
When everyone either ran out of money
Or lost steam, I’m not sure which. 


Parents of little Diana, the first dance


Grandma Petra and uncle Nabor, 
The second dance 


Grandma #2


And the movie…..

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