A Thought (Or a Couple)

October 17, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Life in the US, Mayan Culture | 1 Comment

I’m not going to post an actual well-thought out narrative with stats and links, because I’m just too brain-dead.  But the violence in Mexico is picking up and spreading out and affecting those not involved in narcotrafico.  The death toll is probably in the thousands, but I’m not going to go looking for the numbers.  And all those drugs are headed north where the demand is.  Americans are so sincere about supporting those who want to end genocide in Africa and feed little poor cuties in Central America.  But what about if Americans decided to put an end to the deaths in Mexico that come from fighting carteles?  We’re all doing our part to go green, right?  Why don’t we get the coke consumers to band together and just say no to do their part in saving the innocent people dying in Mexico?  And we’re all about Farmers’ Markets and buying local.  Why don’t all the stoners just say no to the cheap Mexican shwag and and start buying the domestic kind?

I swear, if there were any more drama and excitement in my forty-hour work week, it might just give me a stroke.  So I’m going to post one of my favorite pictures from Chichimila, Yucatan.

 

A little blurry, no?  Any ideas how to fix it?

Quisiera Ser Alcohol

January 13, 2008 at 10:44 am | Posted in Mayan Culture, Village Life | 6 Comments

Despite my love for the Yucatan, the Mayan culture of drinking has long been an uncomfortable backdrop to my adoration of the culture.  Reading Heather’s Lost Weekend post and Yucatan Living’s editorial, The Dark Side of Yucatan, reminded me of my first experience with the devastation that drinking brings to village life.  Below is an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote about life in Chichimila.

Pardon the length, and be thankful I didn’t post the entire eleven page essay!

It was Don Isadoro, Doña Sevita’s husband.  He was in the middle of a drunk that lasted forty days.  He woke up with a bottle of Chac Po’ol (in Maya this means hot-head) and wandered around town all day until he passed out at night.  That first night, when I didn’t know who to welcome with an anthropologist’s eager face or a young women’s distrustful distaste for sloppy men who stand too close, he came into my room to introduce himself.  I sat on my hammock (it’s like getting your sea legs on a boat-with time you find your center) and he stood, holding on to the hammock strings to steady his swaying.  He spoke slowly and clearly to me with a thick Yucatecan campesino accent.  He swayed toward me and then away, his lips moving thickly and his lids drooping over red eyes.  I was nervous, but he only came to welcome me.  He swept his arm across the room, telling me that this small, poor house of his was mine to enjoy as well.  He lost his balance and caught himself again on my hammock strings and continued talking.  The people in this village are tranquilo, he slurred, not like those from Chiapas who would kill any stranger they saw.  As soon as his son came back from work, he would get the key to the back door so I could access the kitchen and spend time talking to his wife.  He finally wandered away to rejoin his friends and their bottles of clear alcohol on the stoop outside their door. 

Isadoro had been drifting deeper into his drunk, and was less the genial, if inebriated host and more a wandering, silent ghost.  Sometimes he acknowledged me with a nod, and other times floated by without seeing me.  Sevita was becoming more silent too.  We gestured and laughed less.   She didn’t come to sit in my room with me to converse in smiling silences and isolated words.  She came to me crying, and asked me for three pesos to buy tortillas for lunch because her husband was spending the money on alcohol.  

The crash woke me up in the middle of the night, which I later learned was a plate which fell to the floor after leaving Isadoro’s hand and making contact with his wife’s forehead.  Screams in Maya followed, a door slammed, and I lay there listening to the crickets’ noise which overlaid the sudden silence.  No sleep came and the next human noise I heard was a car pulling up to my door.  Sevita came in, walked to the glass front cabinet, opened it and rustled around, taking what I later learned was money from her son that she had stashed out of her husband’s reach.  She came and stood over me and obliquely said “Tak i wini?” (Are you tired?) and showed me the blood stains on her once pristine white embroidered dress.  I couldn’t say anything that she’d understand so I put a sympathetic look on my face and touched her hand before she turned to leave.  She went to stay at her mother’s for a week and didn’t come back until they put Doro in the town jail for whacking at his elderly, speechless uncle with a stick. 

Nuestro Rancho

December 22, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Marriage, Mayan Culture | 8 Comments

I decided that I wanted Homeboy to buy me a horse, and he said he could get me one for about 500 pesos.  He also said that we could keep them (of course, he wants a horse too) on his father’s land, which is just south of Chichimila.  Don Petin (Homeboy’s dad) used to work his milpa there, but now the fields are fallow and the land abandoned. 

Our plans exploded from there, but Homeboy has now taken it in a direction that I don’t want to go!  Despite the fact that he used to cry like a baby when his dad would send him to the fields to work, he dreams of being a ranchero.  This, coupled with his parallel dream of being a torero, has taken our plans to an ugly place. 

I said I wanted sheep.  He accepted that, and added cattle to it.  Now he’s gotten it into his head that he wants to start raising black, brave bulls to sell for corridas.  We’ve often argued about bullfighting, as it really upsets me.  Yet he absolutely adores it. 

(An aside: when we were first together and I was living in Chichimila, we went to a corrida during the village’s feria.  He started egging on his friend, whom everyone calls El Vaquero , to jump down from the stands and get in the ring with the bull.  His friend protested, and I noticed Homeboy getting twitchy and crazy-eyed.   Before I realized what was happening, he had jumped off the stands and launched himself into the ring.  He then proceeded to chase the bull around for a good five minutes.)

If we actually ever do something with the land, I can forsee a lot of head-butting over the bull thing.  I really just had this romantic fantasy of getting to wear cowboy boots and spending leisurely afternoons on horseback.  But nothing gets Homeboy more excited than the idea of raising his own bulls. 

I also envision doing tours for those gringos who adore “authentic Mexican experiences.”  Tour on horseback, learn about how Mayans farm, swim in a cenote, eat some relleno negro, and get “cleansed” by a real Mayan shaman!  My idea for the last part was to get one of his friends to wave some tree branches around and babble on in Maya.  But Homeboy now wants to pay an actual shaman to do this!  There’s one living in his brother’s house.  He is supposedly ridding the house of the after-effects of the curse placed on his brother’s deceased wife.  This man has been there for years, and I imagine that if the house has not yet been cleansed of evil, it never will be.

I wonder if people would actually pay for something like this. 

If not, we’ve always got the bulls to fall back on.  Gulp.

Displaced Mexicans Smelling Hammocks

November 28, 2007 at 9:14 am | Posted in Immigration, Life in the US, Marriage, Mayan Culture | 9 Comments

Homeboy’s only advance preparation for coming to the US was to have a hammock made.  (For those of you aren’t aren’t familiar with the Yucatan, hammocks are an important part of Yucatec Maya culture: they sleep in them rather than beds and also make them.) He didn’t have his passport sorted until the day before (imagine my panic), he bought a suitable backpack a week before, and took some furniture in an open truck during a rainstorm from Cancun to his village about three days before his flight. But he did commission a gorgeous, mult-colored, double-weave hammock and paid 700 pesos for it, since his mum can no longer be on her feet for that long to make one for him herself. I told him repeatedly that there is NO way that you could put hammock hooks in sheet rock. But since he’d never actually seen a wooden house, he didn’t believe me and was sure that we would soon be swinging in our hamaca matrimonial in our little apartment in Rhode Island.

So the hammock has been in its bag for a few months since we don’t know what to do with it. A few weeks away he took it out to show our house guests, Monica and her Campechano husband, and I reminded him that it still smelled delciously smoky, exactly like the palapa kitchen that it was made in. So he smelled it, I smelled it, our guests smelled it. Then the two guys kept smelling the hammock, looking all sad and nostalgic. The more they smelled, the sadder they got!

Back in its bag it went, until next time he wants to smell home! I rue the day that we actually figure out what to do with it and it gets aired out so it doesn’t smell like Yucatan anymore!

Those Kooky Mayans

November 19, 2007 at 11:53 pm | Posted in Marriage, Mayan Culture, Weirdness | 2 Comments

Homeboy and I went to visit a former student, now friend of mine this Saturday night.  I’m not clear on how the two topics of card-playing and what kind of music Mexicans play at wakes merged.  But they did.  Homeboy started talking about how Mayan wakes usually involve lots of card-playing, keyboard music, and drinking.  Of course, always the drinking. 

My friend asked how long the in-home wakes last and homeboy replies: Oh, for two days, we hold the wake and play cards, and on the third day, the corpse explodes.

Our friends just stared at him, and then Yolanda says, “Ay, que bien.”

 Apparently not much can be said when speaking of exploding corpses.  And apparently, in Queretaro, exploding corpses at wakes is not something that people worry about.  Not like in Yucatan, where it gets so steamy and unbearable that you think your insides must be cooking.  Especially in an inland village where there is no breeze and never any air conditioning.

Homeboy later tells me that his  paisanos have their wakes timed perfectly so that the body of the dearly departed loved one is packed up and taken for burial in time to avoid any horrific incidents.

 Yet another example of an interesting tidbit of life in a Mayan village I didn’t know about, even after being with homeboy for seven years.

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