The arch at night

arch

HEADING TO bed the other night, I turned around and saw this, and it occurred to me that I’d never taken a straight-on shot of the arch.

The camera was sitting on a table by the front door just off to the left, so I grabbed it, set it on flash, and shot this picture. I almost never use the flash, but it was necessary.

I was standing in near-total darkness.

Those two large plates hanging on either side of the arch were purchased years apart. The one on the left we bought about a decade ago during a trip to Taxco. The one on the right we bought more recently in Ajijic, Jalisco.

Ajijic, like San Miguel de Allende, is one of the most beloved spots for Gringos who want to live down here, do “art,” and not have to be bothered with learning pesky Spanish.

See those two carved-wood columns at the bases of the arch? That was my child bride’s idea. She came up with some doozies during the Hacienda construction.

About a week after moving into the house in 2003, we had a party to show it off to people we knew here. It was back before I turned into an almost complete hermit.

One of our invitees brought someone visiting from above the Rio Bravo. He was an architect, and he told me that finding someone in the United States who could build that arch would be almost impossible these days.

The old guy who built ours, Don Felipe Gonzalez, did it by hand, and it was interesting to watch the work. He was the boss of the three-man construction crew. Don Felipe turned 70 during the construction, and he’s since died.

He also chipped stone blocks out of rock piles to build the two fireplaces and, later, the Alamo Wall out in the yard. He did them by himself. Don Felipe was an artist.

When we hired him to build the Hacienda, he was 69 and just recovering from a lengthy illness of some sort. He was having trouble finding work due to his age.

Ageism, sexism, almost all the isms, thrive in Mexico.

People thought he was not up to it. He was recommended by a relative, and Don Felipe gave us an exceptionally low price for the labor. We jumped at it.

He’s long gone, but I think of his talent almost daily as I wander around here, even late at night before beddy-bye.

13 thoughts on “The arch at night”

  1. Finding an artisan capable of doing the work is hard enough. Then, finding someone who can envision what will look good when finished is another. NOB, winning the lottery so you can afford it is toughest of all.

    I have hand-carved and painted masks and stone carvings from your area, none of which I paid more than $5 for. I resisted for two years buying a hand carved stone fountain about 8′ high that had a price tag of $160. I probably could have bought it for $100. If I had a pickup at the time, it would be here. Endless beauty.

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  2. The arch is just wonderful. What I don’t understand is how the Mexican masons build the domed brick ceilings that are seen all over Mexico.

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    1. Paul: I’ve wondered that myself. I’d like to see a work in progress. Actually, those domed ceilings are not seen all over Mexico. I’ve seen virtually none in my area. However, they seem fairly common in the State of Jalisco, and probably lots of other areas too. I don’t get around all that much.

      But hereabouts, nah. If I had even known of them when we built the Hacienda, I likely would have had it done in at least one room. They are really snazzy.

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  3. It is a bit funny to think of 69 as being too old to work, isn’t it? But life can be much harder on workers here than it is in The States. Here, men make things; up north they simply shuffle paper.

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    1. Steve: Taking the specific case of Don Felipe Gonzalez, it’s important to keep in mind that being an albañil — i.e. mason, bricklayer, etc. — is a very physical occupation so his age was logically an important factor. Indeed, when we hired him, as mentioned, he was just coming off a lengthy illness, and it showed. Had it not been for the glowing recommendation we received (from the Eggman!) and the incredibly low price he gave us, I likely would have given him a pass too. And it would have been a huge error.

      Even so, he let the two younger albañiles do the majority of the heavy lifting while he supervised and sat for days on end chipping away at rocks to make stone blocks for this, that and the other.

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