MY WIFE WAS born at home and delivered by her father who was a physician. The town was Uruapan where they lived briefly before relocating to the nearby village of Taretan.
It’s a town that’s on nobody’s tourist trail.
It was Taretan where another child was born, a girl, then another, a boy, and that ended Mama. Dead at 31.
Mama is buried at the cemetery in Taretan and so is Father who died many years later at age 61 — still too young.
Normally, on the day following the Day of the Dead, we drive to Taretan to tidy up the tombs. That would have been a week back, but we didn’t make it due to a renovation project ongoing at the Hacienda. More on that in a week or two.
So we went yesterday. The cemetery was deserted, which is how I like a cemetery. There was Mama and, some distance away, there was Father. They are not buried side by side.
We never knew the reason for the separation. Of course, Father remarried, so maybe the new wife separated them in death, or maybe it was this reason that we discovered yesterday:
The inscription on the grave adjoining Father’s is totally illegible to the casual observer. My wife decided to figure it out and, with much effort, did so. It’s one of Father’s brothers who was shot dead at the age of 18 in the 1930s.
We doubt anyone in the family who is currently alive is aware of that, and it partly explains why Father is buried in the adjoining plot instead of next to Mama. It was another brother who decided to bury Father in that particular spot.
Moving another plot to the left, there is a well-tended tomb on which the inscription is quite clear. My wife recognizes the name of an old friend of her father’s.
The inscription says that he was murdered by “an enemy of the people.” One wonders about the details in that case.
It was the 1950s.
Following the cemetery visit, we drove to the plaza where there is an ice cream parlor. She got coconut and I picked strawberry. We sat on a sidewalk table and watched people pass by.
MY CHILD BRIDE was hunting her roots, and I went along for the ride.
The objective was to get proof of her having been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church because we need that for the First Communion of our nephew whom I have referred to hereabouts as the Little Vaquero even though now he is 11 years old.
The boy is growing quickly.
The Vaquero wants me to be his godfather, but since I have never joined any church, Catholic or otherwise, nor have I been baptized, I’m not eligible. I have never been touched by any organized religion or its odd practices, so I could not be the godfather.
Vatican credentials are essential, they say.
But there are sneaky ways to circumvent the rules. What will happen, as I understand it, is that I will be the godfather but my child bride will stand in for me at the ceremony because she has the proper credentials from On High.
We just have to locate those credentials, the proof of her baptism over half a century ago, and we don’t know exactly in what church that took place. It’s the specific church that has the proof. Since she spent her early childhood in Taretan, we figured the church there would have the papers, but we were mistaken.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
On Tuesday morning, we headed down the autopista to Taretan. On arriving, we went to the church office where we discovered the baptism credentials of three siblings, but not hers.
We mulled. My child bride was not born in Taretan like the other three siblings. She was born a few miles away in the larger city called Uruapan, but they lived there just briefly.
But before we leave Taretan and head to Uruapan, let me tell you what I did. The church, as in most Mexican towns, faces the plaza. And near the church is an ice cream parlor named Paletería Violeta. I always sit on a sidewalk table at Violeta’s with an agua de fresa, which is a sort of strawberry-ade. I sit and watch the passing people on the plaza.
We’re in Taretan a couple times each year. It’s a Mexican Mayberry.
Sitting there, I noticed a man with his portable business in the plaza across the street. It was a big three-wheeled bicycle, and his business sat in front of the handlebars on a large platform. He sold, cut, squeezed and served sugar cane.
He was younger than I but not by much. He wore a baggy cotton shirt, baggy cotton trousers, a large straw hat, a bushy Mexican mustache and ancient, dusty sandals, huaraches.
As I was finishing my agua de fresa, he walked over and asked if I could change a 100-peso note. A customer bought a five-peso cane treat and paid with a 100-peso bill. I could not help him, and he went off hunting change.
Meanwhile, my child bride was in the church office not far away. When she spoke her name to the secretary, a man sitting nearby said that he had known her father and mother. Keep in mind the whole family had moved away from Taretan almost 50 years ago.
Sheriff Andy likely remembered Mayberry residents from long ago. Deputy Fife too. Small towns can stay the same, more so in Mexico now, I think, than in the United States where people are more mobile, and society is crumbling into discord.
Since the baptism paper we sought was not in Taretan, we figured it was in the nearby bigger city of Uruapan where she was born. The family lived there briefly, in this house below, and her father, a doctor, saw patients in the front room.
That’s the house, yellow and white, where my young bride was born at home, not in a hospital, and her daddy delivered her. With mama’s help.
Perhaps the baptism paper was available in the church nearest to where she was born. It sounded logical. Mexicans don’t wander far. We drove to #20 Pueblita Street and asked a passer-by where the nearest church was. It was on the main plaza.
We arrived at lunch time, and the office was closed. Looking at a two-hour wait, we decided to return home, which we did. We’ll have to return another day, but since the Little Vaquero is not scheduled for his First Communion till next month, we have time.
If the baptism paper isn’t at that church, we don’t know what we’ll do to satisfy the Vatican. But the agua de fresa alone made the trip worthwhile for me.
And the sugar cane vendor with the bushy mustache.