Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another Sunday in the Country

Everyone knows someone who hates Sundays.  My older sister Amy has never liked them. My good friend Marian in Los Angeles self-medicates on Sunday nights.  Something about the end of the weekend, an uneasy nervousness about the week ahead, gives many people the Sunday night frights.  But this Sunday was amazing, in that unexpected, unplanned San Miguel way, when someone mentions something casually about some kind of get together. So you make a couple of side dishes, throw some beers in a cooler and you go.  You never quite know what to expect because everything here is so last-minute and so spontaneous and so open (bring your friends, bring your kids, bring something to share!).  You never believe it can come together, but it always does, partly because the settings are invariably fantastic, and partly because the people you meet are always rather un-ordinary and pleasing people with whom to spend a Sunday.

Mid-afternoon we drove east out of town on the road to Queretaro, turning right just past my favorite junkyard/iron shop onto a perfectly straight and pot-holed road lined with cosmos in bloom to a  rural community called Jalpa.  Following us were Janan and Tom MacDonald, and their two kids, Alya and Will.  Janan and Tom moved to San Miguel from Chicago where they own two restaurants called Webster's Wine Bar and The Bluebird.  But that's another story.  We were heading to some land owned by Ronnie and Rose, two folks we know from Waldorf, the kids' school, who are very involved in the green movement in Mexico through their stewardship of a group called Organic Consumers Society.  Their house was described to me as being about six kilometers into Jalpa, on the left, up the hill between two big houses, one a California-style rancher and the other Mexican Mediterranean.  After more than an hour of searching, and driving through the completely buckled and washed out dirt roads of Jalpa, passing a pack of feral dogs, a few muchachos riding their horses bareback, and one family picnicing under the trees in a field full of purple and yellow wildflowers, sectioned off by low stone walls reminiscent of rural Ireland, we turned around when we reached a T in the road and started back.

Figuring at this point we had nothing to lose (and having pulled over and thrown our three boys into the car with Tom and Janan because they were driving us crazy with some incessant nonsense about lugies--what color they are, what constitutes a lugie, who hocked up a lugie on whom), we studied the hillside, now on our right, to see if there were any houses somewhere in the green mountains that we had missed.  An lo and behold, there was.  The camouflaged Via Organica recycling bag that Rose and Ronnie had hung from an acacia tree at the entrance to their house was now slightly visible. But more importantly, high up on the bluff we could see figures moving around under a stone palapa.  A third of an uphill mile later we parked the car under some scrub and carried our cooler up a few more steps to find an outdoor firepit in full burn, a comal atop of it with a pile of vegetables roasting.  And a 30-mile view over the campo on all four sides.

Because the house is so far from anything else, there is no running water and no toilet (except for the nifty compost one they installed in a stone outhouse).  But there are a cistern to catch rainwater from the roof, an indoor sleeping space with a wood-burning chiminea and room for cards and legos (spread out on a big sheet on the floor), and an extension cord or some such thing running from a neighbor down in the valley to their place. So while there's no electricity per se (Ronnie said they're waiting until they have more money before they can get their own power line) we had music and, as night started to fall, a light.

The kids took off through the cacti to find a field in the valley below, the perfect pitch for a baseball game.  Fernando, the eternal host and our buddy from Mexicali, threw turkey arrachera on the firepit while Rose made quesadillas with chipotle flor de calabeza cheese, and Pablo and Jenny put a pot of beet soup on the coals.  Later we wandered down hill and met Manual and his wife, Rosa, the family from whom Rose and Ronnie bought their land.

They own hectares for as far as the eye can see, but have sold a few parcels here and there to Americans, who aren't farmers and prefer the un-tillable land with the great views on top of the mountain (a far more reasonable purchase than land below that can be farmed). Manuel gave us a walking tour of the property, proudly pointing out the bordo, the livestock's watering hole; his turkey and sheep pens; and his overgrown stand of maguey plants and pomegranate trees.  He and Rosa have nine children, seven of whom moved to the States to find work.  Though he looked about 40, he said his two youngest boys, ages 16 and 17, are still at home.  I imagine it's just a matter of time before the call of the American dollar lures his last two over the border.


  1. yeah- great entry and so enjoyed your prose!!! Can I just copy and paste to my blog!!! hee hee, this is great and the pictures are perfect....hugs! BIG HUGS!! Jenny

  2. Great Sunday Ann- so happy we got to spend it with you, Sam, the boys and the entire crew!!

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  4. Ann - I am finally able to post comments! And I love the new entries. Cannot wait for your Day of the Dead Rundown.


  5. Ann - I just found this and I loved reading about your days in Mexico! What a wonderful experience and adventure ... I'm a little jealous since my life has been ruled by sports and school functions! Enjoy it all!
    XOXO, Jeanne