Church work

church
Scaffolds abut the church as guys do the much-needed renovation.

ABOUT A DECADE back, folks knocked on the gate and asked for a contribution to construct a short bridge over a ravine a few blocks down our street.  It would have solved a serious traffic glitch, so we kicked in 200 pesos.

The work on the bridge began, but it never finished, and remains undone to this day. The traffic glitch lives on.

A couple of months ago, folks again knocked on the gate and asked for a contribution to renovate the church. They asked for lots more, 2,000 pesos, about $115 U.S.

My wife mentioned what happened to the last money we contributed for neighborhood projects. Oh, no, this time it will happen, the folks declared.

Being community-minded and knowing the 500-year-old church on the plaza was on the point of collapse, we handed over the cash, mentally kissing it vaya con diós.

But religious projects trump street work any day hereabouts, so the church renovation is under way, and I have no doubt it will be completed. I am glad even though I am neither Catholic nor Christian. Architecture matters.

In the almost 15 years we’ve lived in our hardscrabble barrio, and the thousands of times we’ve walked the plaza, I imagine we have not stepped through the church doors more than five or six times. The same cannot be said of our neighbors. The church is the focal point of the community.

The weddings and funerals we witness there are numerous. There is no priest in residence, so masses are sporadic.

One cannot help but wonder why the Pope, who is likely richer than Bill Gates, Raul Castro and Carlos Slim combined, does not finance the renovation of his churches, leaving it sometimes to unbelievers like myself.

While walking the plaza this morning, I also shot the photo below. An old, beat-up VW Beetle and an old Chevy Pop like the one we owned from 2000 to 2014. I wonder how often one sees these old Beetles above the Rio Bravo now.

They’re quite common down here even though Mexico halted production in 2003.

cars
History survives in many forms.

Fooling God

plants
Saturday morning on the veranda

THIS SATURDAY is somewhat different than most, so I thought I’d gossip with you about it.

Normally, Saturdays are identical. My child bride is in her private kitchen out by the property wall, preparing her pastries for the afternoon sale on the big plaza downtown.

But not today.  She’s going to church this morning.

But first, here’s what I’m doing, and it’s not much different than what I do every Saturday morning. I make rounds under the cursed peach tree scooping up fallen peaches to toss out.

Then I sweep the veranda. I hear the shower running in the bathroom, and I hear a lively Mexican tune blaring from the backstreet neighbors. I also hear the electric pump that’s sending water from the underground cistern to the tank atop the roof. And I hear birds. Lots of stuff to listen to.

Soon I’ll be hearing the lawnmower and weedeater because Abel the Deadpan Yardman arrives later to trim the grass.

The sky is blue. The air is crisp. The lawn is wet because it rained quite a spell last night, making sweet sounds.

Now here’s why she’s going to church. It’s to fool God.

Relatives often ask us to be godparents to the endless array of babies they birth because we look like the best deal going in the family. Problem is that our marriage was only a civil one, not a religious one. A judge connected us, and that’s not good enough to be godparents. I suppose we’re seen as living in sin.

There has been a recent spate of new babies among the bunny-breeding kin, so we received at least two new invites to godparenting. I pass. But my child bride really wants to. There’s nothing she loves more than babies.

This morning, she’s pretending to be single to get the proper paperwork, so she can be a godmother without me tagging along. The proper paperwork requires a three-hour instruction from a priest. She’s doing that in a church downtown.

I hope she remembers to remove her wedding ring.

This amuses me while I sweep the veranda and wait for Abel to cut the grass that I’ve already liberated of fallen, rotting peaches.

It’s a lovely morning.

Less than a tithe

This is our neighborhood church. Built, I’m guessing, in the 1500s.

WE USUALLY don’t answer the doorbell because it’s often passing kids goofing around or someone selling something we don’t want. And it’s almost a two-block round trip from inside the house to the front gate and back. That more than anything.

* * * *

A Catholic spell

I come from country people who were never anything but Baptists or Methodists that I know of.

In spite of that, I was deposited in a Catholic school for kindergarten and First Grade in Albany, Georgia, about 10,000 years ago. My mother did it because it had the best reputation in town, education-wise.

My sister was sentenced there too. My sister had imagination, however, or maybe it was just childish ignorance. She came home one day and announced that she’d changed the Holy Water, freshened it up with stuff from the tap.

Neither the priest nor the nuns ever noticed, which tells me that Holy Water’s fame is overstated somewhat.

My mother, before enrolling me, made the nuns promise they wouldn’t try to turn me into a Catholic, and they did so promise because, one imagines, our money looked green.

However, one day I came home with the report that, after having misbehaved in some way, I was made to kneel on rice before a painting of the Virgin and beg forgiveness.

Mother took me out of the school at that point, and I left Catholicism forever if you don’t count that my second ex-wife is a recovering Catholic, and Mexico is full of Catholics.

My child bride does not seem to be a Catholic, but the environment rubs off. Her father was an atheist and her evil stepmother, after father died too young, became a Jehovah’s Witness, one of those pests at your front door.

* * * *

Speaking of doorbells

As I was saying, we rarely respond to the doorbell here at the Hacienda unless we are expecting someone.

But my child bride was toiling in her pastry workshop the other day when the doorbell rang — it rings both out there and here in the house — and since there was little walking involved, she opened the little speakeasy portal in the steel gate.

Two ladies were there, and they were not pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses, but Catholics on a collecting mission.

You see our neighborhood church up top? It is very old, and it’s in bad condition. We were informed that City Hall has agreed to chip in a percentage for a much-needed restoration, but residents here in our poor barrio have to pony up too.

We were being asked to pony up, so we ponied.

We learned that the amount one is asked to contribute is based on how well-off you look. In our hardscrabble neighborhood, we look quite well-off, so we were asked for 1,000 pesos.

We paid for the sake of architecture.

I think the Vatican should pay for the entire restoration, but it doesn’t seem that Headquarters pays us much mind.

I hope enough money is raised because I like the church. I see it every weekday morning during our exercise walk. I’ve rarely been inside, but I hear singing at times, and I see funerals and weddings there. All part of the tapestry hereabouts.

Down the mountain

cafe
Are we in Paris?

WE DRIVE down the mountain every week to the state capital, mostly for shopping at Costco and Superama.

And to grab a lunch.

We rarely go directly into the center of town because traffic is snarly, and free parking is hard to find.

Yesterday, while my child bride was doing chores, I drove downtown for a look-see. That array of sidewalk tables sits across from a music conservatory called Las Rosas.

The Roses.

When I lived in the capital for seven months in 2000, I occasionally ate here. At the time there was only one establishment on this end, and another on the far end.

Those in the middle were not there.

cops
Cops, cops, cops.

Mexicans are fond of protesting in the streets and highways. More often than not, it’s teachers who want guaranteed jobs and the right to bequeath those jobs to unqualified relatives at retirement. Teachers also loath competence tests.

To counter these malcontents, police often take to the streets en masse. That’s what you see in the second photo. They were just standing there in body armor and shields.

I saw no impending strife nearby, so …

Being a cop must be very boring at times.

church
Scads of churches.

Sidewalk restaurants, cops and churches. The state capital is full of churches. That’s one just above. I snapped the photo while sitting on a bench in a plaza of yet another church directly behind me. Churches galore.

We sit at sidewalk eateries. We want guaranteed jobs. And we kneel and pray everywhere. All of those things happen in quantity down the mountain in the state capital.

It’s only 40 minutes away.

Thirty minutes if you really haul butt.