Tag Archives: haciendas

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.

The rooster

I WAS LIGHTING incense with a stove torch in the living room yesterday, standing next to this. The sunlight from the big window was doing a swell job of illuminating.

I took a photo.

Cockfighting is alive and well in Mexico. You see fighting birds quite often while you’re out and about. Not fighting, but you see them, mostly in little roadside cages.

Or guys with cowboy hats and mustaches carrying them down the sidewalk or in the rear of pickup trucks.

I’ve been to a cockfight once, but it was in Puerto Rico 40 years ago. Don’t recall much about it. I likely was not sober. I do remember the covered arena, but not the fight itself.

I’ve also been to a bullfight once. That was in the Plaza México in Mexico City. As with the cockfight, once was enough. I have nothing against cockfights, however. Bullfights either.*

Chickens are dumb as rocks, and cattle suffer far more in slaughterhouses around the world. Toros in bullfights actually get a pretty good shake, as shakes go.

But the rooster theme is quite common in Mexico. In addition to this artwork of papier-mâché, you’ll see other roosters in the Hacienda. Lots of skeletons too.

* * * *

* Never been to a dogfight. That would bother me.

Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.

 

 

Change of scenery

houston
Where I lived for 15 years. Houston.
street
Where I’ve lived for 17 years.

THE FIRST five years of my life, I resided in the countryside, a farm not far from Sylvester, Georgia.

The latest census puts Sylvester’s population at about 6,000 souls. Lord knows what it was in the late 1940s when I was toddling around there in the dirt.

My current mountaintop pueblo is home to about 80,000 folks, dwarfing the population of Sylvester, but 80,000 is a far cry from the 6 million you’ll find in Houston’s metropolitan area or even the 2 million in the city itself.

Before moving to my mountaintop, Houston was where I lived and worked. I don’t work anymore unless you count pulling weeds and watering veranda potted plants.

I play and relax.

The switch from Houston to this mountaintop pueblo was a drastic move. I’m a big-city boy. And my child bride is a big-city girl. Why are we here?

Lack of communication.

One morning, about two years after constructing and moving into the Hacienda, we were sitting on the veranda in our wicker rockers, talking. We discovered that we’d both have preferred settling in a big city.

How did we not know this? Answer: I assumed she wanted to live here because relatives live here, especially her favorite sister. She assumed I wanted to live here because I was here and had moved here intentionally.

But we never discussed it specifically. Dumb, huh?

Why not sell the Hacienda and move elsewhere? Actually, about that time, I did advertise it online, and got an offer for twice what we had paid to build this place.

But I chickened out because I love our home, and there is a large city nearby, the capital down the mountainside. But, aside from weekly Costco shopping jaunts, we rarely go there.

We’ve become small-city folks. But every time I see a photo of Houston, I sigh. And she likely does the same when we make our twice-a-year visits to Mexico City, which is where she lived when I found her.

But we can stand in the yard on dark nights and see stars from horizon to horizon. And I never heard roosters at dawn or burros anytime in Houston.

Just occasional gunfire.

* * * *

(Note: We’ll be home this afternoon from San Miguel de Allende where we fled on Sunday to avoid the worst of Carnival in our hardscrabble neighborhood.)

Chet Baker moments

JAZZ GREAT Chet Baker provided musical backdrop to this video of a living room corner on a recent morning.

The tick, tock, tick, tock you hear is coming from an off-camera antique wall clock that I inherited years ago from a great aunt. The clock was made in the 1880s.

It chimes on the hour and half-hour too.

What the hey!?

new-image
Just this morning. Circle of hippie women and the green floral frog.

IT RAINED last night, which is against the rules.

Normally, February is clear, blue and cold at night, cool in the day. The last couple of days, however, have escaped the mold. It’s been overcast, cold and very windy.

This morning dawned overcast, but it’s mostly blue before 10 a.m., and the cursed wind has diminished.

Lots on the calendar. We will soon flee our hardscrabble barrio due to Carnival. We’ll go to San Miguel de Allende where, among other things, we’ll visit a friend of mine from high school. She and her husband are spending three months there.

They live in North Carolina.

She’ll be the first high school friend I’ve seen in over 40 years. She’s a retired professor of Chinese something-or-other. She’s very smart, which is why we were friends.

Shortly after returning, we’ll go to Mexico City for our twice-yearly airing of the condo. It’s highly likely that we will actually get our hands on the deed at last.

On returning from Mexico City, we’ll hire a crew to do stuff both here at the Hacienda and at our downtown Casita, mostly maintenance, but we’ll probably remove the grass, and plant stone and concrete in the yard’s semicircle.

yard
Photo from a few years back. We sold that blue Chevy in 2014.

I’ve been wanting to reduce the grass for years. Maybe it will start this year with that semicircle. Depends on the price. But the peso-dollar exchange rate makes me feel rich.

I’ll keep you posted next month because I know you’re on the edge of your seat about this.

In the meantime, I’ve got to walk the plaza now, take a shower, get dressed, drive to an outdoor market, buy veggies for stir-fry, and fix lunch. Pork chops, pasta and that stir-fry.

I’m a very handy hubby.

The 23 percenter

I HAVE NOW spent 23 percent of my life in Mexico.

new-imageWere I a young buck, this would not be so many years, but I am an old moose with mossy horns. The years are plenty.

I stumbled thorough most of life with no intention of leaving the land of my birth. Georgia rednecks don’t move to Mexico. It was only within a year of moving that I started to think about it.

And then, within a one-month span, I dumped almost everything, got on a plane and came on down. For the first nine years, while my decrepit mother was still alive, I averaged one trip back a year, usually about a week.

I returned only once following her death in 2009, a few months after, and I’ve never been above the border since. I don’t miss it, and as time passes, I miss it even less.

From what I read on Gringo internet forums and websites, most everyone who “moves” to Mexico, be it for retirement or, much less often, to work, the draw of the Old Country is powerful. People can’t let go, and return often.

It appears compulsive, but it’s likely grandchildren.

Don’t tell my wife, please, but I have no intention of ever crossing the Rio Bravo again. I say don’t tell my wife because she really likes it up there, and dreams of another visit.

I have no tight family ties there — wish I did — so here I am, alone with a pack of Mexican relatives, including a number who’ve been illegal aliens above the border.

I speak Spanish almost exclusively. I live in a big Hacienda on what’s just above the U.S. poverty-income level, an interesting phenomenon since I’ve never felt richer in my life.

new-imageCan’t help but wonder what percentage of my life will have passed as a Mexican when it comes to a halt. No matter.

Pass the tacos, por favor.

The evening wall

walll

AS I STEPPED through the Hacienda’s steel door from the street yesterday evening, I spotted this.

The day was fading, and the sky was gray. It was about to rain, which it should not do in mid-November because it’s simply not right. We’ve had enough by now.

Speaking of water, I was returning from paying our water bill, which I do every four months. Most people pay monthly, but I pay four months at a whack just for convenience.

The water office is a block and a half away in a corner building on the plaza. The building is likely about four centuries old. The office is only open the last two weeks of each month.

A woman waits in there at a paint-flaking desk where sits a computer. I don’t know what the computer is for because she does everything by hand on sheets of paper.

The monthly charge for municipal water is 50 pesos, which is about $2.50 U.S. bucks these days. Water usage is not metered. It’s a flat rate for everyone.

And it’s the honor system. Nobody gets a bill.

The woman writes a receipt by hand from a receipt book she likely purchased in a stationary store. I leave 200 pesos for the four months, walk out the door and head home.

Opening the steel door to the Hacienda, I look up at the Alamo Wall, the monkey and the swan. It’s a nice evening in spite of the threatening rain, which did fall later.

Window treatment

window
Nice, clean, fresh windows.

THE FELLOWS just packed up their gear and garbage and hightailed it out of here, thank the Goddess.

Since Monday at 8:30 a.m., we’ve had workmen underfoot, two of them, usually. They were doing renovations.

We hire guys to work here about once a year because a Hacienda requires love and care.

The principal chore this week was to refurbish the windows in the upstairs terraza, the first time that’s happened since we moved here almost 14 years ago.

I should have taken a “before” shot, but I didn’t, and now there is only the “after” shot above. But trust me, it was nasty. There are three windows, but the photo shows just two.

For two days, the fellows sanded by hand and electric sander. They went down to clear wood. Then they stained. Then they laid a varnish that’s also used on basketball courts.

It’s tough stuff.

They also painted most of the downstairs veranda, plus parts of the house exterior. There were other little details to boot.

They were here two 10-hour days and one four-hour day. I bought the paint, but the work cost the peso equivalent of about $235 in U.S. bucks.

About three weeks ago, another crew removed and replaced the tile floor in the upstairs shower stall. The work took two days, and set me back $55 for the labor.

The peso-buck exchange rate is very sweet right now.

terraza
Yellow and green are fresh. The red is the same.