Mi México Lindo
As a child growing up in North Texas, we would vacation in the Rio Grande Valley. During the day we would drive across the border into Matamoras to enjoy the wonderful food and the friendliness of the locals. My parents were perhaps only interested in an affordable holiday, or exposing their children to another culture. They certainly did not realize at the time that I was falling in love with Mexico.
I remember those summer holidays well and looked forward to them during the cold North Texas winters. I especially remember the people of Matamoras, with their smiling faces and warm hearts. The vendors in the market would often offer small treats to my brother and I. At the time, I had thought it was perhaps obvious to the vendors at the market that we were not rich. Today, I realize that is perfectly normal behavior of all Mexicans to treat children in this way.
It is Navidad (Christmas) in Cuernavaca and my partner, Barbara, and I spent some time this evening at the open-air Restaurante Universal across from the Zocalo (town square). Our friend, Manuel Santiesteban plays guitar and sings to the diners each night and we enjoy his company.
The restaurant was very crowded with families celebrating Navidad by taking their mother (who had labored in the kitchen preparing the Christmas meal for the past several days) to café and helado (coffee and ice cream). And, there were a smattering of gringos out to enjoy the festivities on the Zocolo, who sat for a while, listening to the music and enjoying coffee and a pastele (dessert) during the warm evening.
The restaurant makes every attempt to keep the street vendors out of the open air restaurant, but usually look away when a niño de la calle (street child) enters in an attempt to sell their trinkets and handicrafts to the patrons of the restaurant. The children are naive and usually move on if someone says, “No gracias!” I usually pay little attention to the children, but tonight I noticed that most of the patrons would reach into their pocket and take out a peso ($0.07 USD) or more in change, which would be placed in the child’s hand as they declined to make a purchase.
The children are usually given a box of candies, which are inventoried by their parents. When they return, they must account for the missing candies with the money they have collected. Of course, the few pesos they collect without making a sale is perhaps never reported to the parents and they will use the money to buy treats for themselves the next day at the abborates (grocery).
At the table next to us were a Mexican couple and their small niña (girl) enjoying ice cream. Two very small street kids approached the table and the woman retrieved some coins from her purse. As she presented each of the boys their gift of perhaps five pesos ($0.36 USD) each, she gave each of them a hug and wished them ¡Feliz Navidad! (Merry Christmas).
I watched as time and again the children were treated kindly by the patrons with little regard to the difference in social status. I became aware of one more reason that I am in love with Mexico. Status may mean having more money in one’s pocket, driving a nice car and living in a comfortable home but when it comes to social interaction with others they treat others the same as they would a member of their own family here in Mexico.
When I am asked why I live in Mexico, the expected answer is usually that the economy allows for a better lifestyle, or that the weather averages 72˚ year round (it is 82˚ today – Christmas Day). But my answer is that I most enjoy the la paz, la serenidad y la tranquilidad (peace, serenity and tranquility) in a place where family means everything.
As we paid our bill at the restaurant, the waiter, Jose, wished us ¡Feliz Navidad! in a manner that left us with the impression that it was much more to him than simply a courtesy. He actually meant it.
As is Manuel’s custom when we arise to leave between songs, he put his guitar on it’s stand and came to our table to shake our hand and give us a huge hug to show his gratitude for our presence. He also wished us ¡Feliz Navidad! and Feliz Año Nuevo! (Happy New Year!).
Each morning as I stand in front of our home, watering the bougainvilleas, the people on their way to work and I always exchange a “Buenos días” (good morning) with one another. If a woman with a small child in tow passes and I say “Buenos días”, the mother always reminds the child to say good morning to me as well. I smile and pat the child on the head, which always brings a most wonderful smile to all three of us.
With this I am reminded each morning of mi México lindo (my beautiful Mexico).
As it is the holidays, I wish to take this time to wish all my readers “¡Unas Felices Fiestas y un próspero Año Nuevo!” (Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!”
About the Author
Bill Hood is the co-publisher of Viva Cuernavaca. He lives with his partner, Barbara Wilson, MD, in a small home in Col. Vista Hermosa, Cuernavaca, where he enjoys writing, painting, and photography.