Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sunday at Roger's Ranch

One gorgeous Sunday afternoon (January 24) we left downtown San Miguel for a day in the campo.  Our friends, Roger and Rosana Jones, who have lived in San Miguel for 20 years (Rosana is actually a native and met Roger, a New Englander, as a teenager at La Fragua bar while hooking Mass with her sister).  They bought 250 acres of undeveloped land on a mountainside past the town of Jalpa.  About 10 families piled into a bunch of pickup trucks and SUVS, with coolers of beer, bowls of salads, and the makings for quesadillas and tacos.  The property is about 40 minutes from San Miguel, off the road to Queretaro. 
The spot was magic--green land up the hillsides, and scrubby cactus and acacia trees leading down to a canyon with a river running through it.  We all hiked together to the river: Liz and Fernanado with Romy and Fernandito, who let nine kids ride in the bed of their truck for the last couple of unpaved miles into the property; Michelle Dutch with Cookie, Grace and Gunner (poor Boobie is stuck in Iowa starting a marketing division for Hearst Publications); Ann Holtby and her three boys; Rose, Ronnie and Adrian, who run the cooperative that ran Camp Gaia; Dr. NocheBuena, who treats arthritis with bee stings and magnets; lots of assorted Mexican friends of Rosana; Roger and Rosana's bilingual daughter, Isabella, who's in Redd's class; and a fascinating  dude named Michael who was born in Cyprus (calls himself Greek) but grew up in Tanzania and was schooled in Zambia.  He flew to school by small plane, like Finch in Out of Africa.  When the colonialists were kicked out of Zambia, all his privileges were taken away.  Almost overnight, he was forced to eat the local paste and grubs like the rest of the kids.  No more fancy food.  Sam had a remarkable insight: "In Baltimore I felt like I was one of the more interesting people.  Here I feel like one of the least."

Roger and Rosana bought the property, complete with three or four little stone huts, from a family next door.  The dad was swept away on horseback by a flash flood in the canyon recently.  His grave, cross and little white mausoleum adorned with pink plastic flowers, are by the trail head as you turn to go down to the river.  The rest of the extended family still lives in the stone houses next door to Roger--no running water, no electricity, no plumbing.  The youngest child, Alejandro, led us into the canyon like a native tracker.  He's five, and this entire world is his backyard.  He and his sister travel by burro out of the mountains down to Jalpa for school each day. 

Down in the canyon the kids popped in the freezing water in their jeans, then decided they weren't too shy to strip down to their underwear.  We spent an hour or two in the sun, then hiked back out of the canyon, the kids in their boxers.  It was a riot.  No one was really self-conscious, even though there were girls around too.  When the slow poke adults got back to base camp, Bo, Griffin and Gunner had already started a bonfire.  I had no idea they even knew how to light a match.  Bo was standing by the fire poking it with bamboo sticks, in just a long grey t-shirt and bare feet.  We made them throw sand on it to bring down the flames.

The adults sat under these big shady trees drinking wine and eating tuna fish with carrots and potatoes and cilantro cheese on hunks of organic bread, and slices of apples and jicama on skewers, dusted with lime juice and ground worms.  Seriously!  The shaker looked like chili powder, but it was a local specialty from Oaxaca of roasted, pulverized grubs.  Alejandro's mother, Marie Elena, cooked inside Roger's hut for us, making a pollo verde on homemade tortilla over a wood fire on rocks.  His older sisters, too young to drink legally, joined us for a cerveza.  They were beautifully dressed and groomed; if you saw them on the streets of San Miguel, you'd never know that they live 40 minutes from town, ride donkeys to school, pee outside, and wash their clothes and hair over a pot of boiling water.  

I don't know that we can ever come back to Baltimore.

1 comment:

  1. There is so much truth in your last sentence. I'd just have to change Baltimore to Houston.