Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The 3 Messengers Part III, The Response.

Before cutting short The 3 Messengers, I believed that the writing would flow straight from my Uncle Henry's death through Catemaco into that incredibly propicious week in March.  And when I cut it short, due to exhaustion and the belief that it would be easier for you to follow it in 2 parts, I firmly believed that I was halfway through the story.  I emailed Robert and informed him that I would be writing about him and connected him with the 1st piece and then the 2nd piece.  However, today I am hoping for the spiritual and mental energy for writing the 3rd piece and I haven't yet introduced Robert.  For a moment I became concerned about my jumping back in time.  However, when I finished the 2nd part, I realized that I must introduce Karla in order to introduce Robert.  And in order to introduce Karla, I must explain how Michael met her and how I didn't meet her for years... So...

After waiting 4 hours for my bus to Mexico City in the bus station in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, where they didn't stamp my passport (something that became a concern 8 years later), I crossed half the country 14 hours at night.  In the first half hour the bus stopped at a restaurant and the bus driver told us we could get off to use the bathroom or buy something to eat.  At least that's what I thought he said since I didn't understand Spanish.  After 2.5 days of travelling on Greyhound, I stayed put, thinking that the driver would return in 5 minutes and I didn't want to risk being stranded in the Mexican frontier.  However, he and the passengers didn't return for an hour.  They were cenando, eating dinner.  I figured, like with Greyhound, this bus will stop in another bus station to change drivers in maximally 8 hours or the thoughtful bus driver will stop for breakfast.  I was wrong.  The bus didn't stop again until it entered Mexico City 13 hours later.  

All was fine.  Michael had hooked me up with one of his new friends, Silvia, he had met through Manolo his chamanism teacher and she offered me her dining room floor for sleeping in her apartment in Mexico City.  I was able to shower and we went to a Ticket Bus where I bought tickets for Oaxaca leaving the following morning.  I was afraid of staying one minute extra in Mexico City without Spanish.  Years later I would realize that the very large tourist, historical and cultural sections of Mexico City were very tranquil and offered little threat.  Margarita, the ranchera/campesina fell in-love with our walks exploring the city on foot and crossing the city on the Metro, periodically asks me when we will visit Mexico City again.  However, since I am not psychic, I couldn't know that about that Mexico City and I fled to Oaxaca 18 hours later, where I met one of Jonathan's friends who was visiting friends there.  I spent 9 days in Oaxaca and fled to Veracruz because I felt that if I had stayed there longer I wouldn't have learned Spanish, burning the little money I brought with me, all in vane.  There were so many young American and European tourists there looking for new friends and new lovers, speaking in English.  One young lawyer from San Francisco asked me, "Ross, what do you have against me that you ignore my dinner invitations?"  With that question, the anti-English barrier was broken, I went with her to dinner and I went to the movies with others and for pizza and beer with yet others and I lifted myself up from the seat of my pants and I gave myself a kick in the ass that sent me tumbling into the February gray and drizzly Port of Veracruz.  The following day I fled that depressing and dirty city for Paso Doña Juana and Poncho and Lety with their cabaña on the beach, delivering the photographs that Lety's brother developed for Michael in Suffern, NY.  Being Michael's friend, Poncho and Lety treated me like a visiting prince.  However, after two days I told them (with the help of my Spanish/English dictionary) that I must leave for Xalapa; that I had an appointment for teaching English to Michael's friend Karla.  Poncho and Lety looked at me with suspicaz, as they would do 3 more times in the future (both are Scorpions and easily feel rejected).  Poncho told me, Look, this is your home.  You don't have to do anything, you don't have to spend money.  You can live here indefinitely.  The food is free, river crabs to the left, ocean fish infront.  No work, just fishing...  And he meant that.  And I understood the significance of that offer.  However, I felt responsible towards someone who I didn't know; Karla.  

Little did I know that when I landed in Xalapa on the Valentine's Day, Karla was landing in J.F.K. International Airport in Long Island.  Later on, Margarita would tell me that that evening she had been dancing with her girlfriends from Las Cañadas (one of them would become her sister-in-law Rosa) in a club, having the time of her life.  For the most part the campesina women dance with the women and the Campesino men dance with the men.  Michael sent me with the telephone # of his shamanism teacher Manolo who lives in Xalapa....-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-

Did you hear the scratching of the record? Time to retrace our steps 5 years.

I had mentioned fleeing Mónica for the East Village at night before she returned home from work.  I had mentioned my friend Laura "Java" and our radar connection in the Lower East Side meeting randomly on Rivington Street.  If I ignore this triangle, we miss the whole point of the journey...

Back to Spring 1998.

On Sundays Mónica enjoyed visiting open air markets on West Broadway and West Houston in Greenwich Village.  One of those Sundays we stumbled across Michael and M´nique's alternative hippy tables selling beautiful hand-made crafts from indigenous Peruvians they had met during their 2 year journey from Mexico to Argentina.  As I have said before, M & M promised their indigenous friends a market for their wonderful products in New York City and even paid the shipping...  Mónica became very intrigued by Australians selling Latin American crafts on the streets of New York City and became engaged in a long conversation with Michael.  At the time I was still very shy and I stayed a few feet back towards the curb and the street watching their conversation.  It turns out that Michael and M'nique ended up in New York City because of Michael's dream of becoming a stock broker on Wall Street, believe it or not.  In Mexico, 2 years earlier, they had met a very wealthy man at a Rainbow gathering in Mexico.  It turned out that this man had an international commodities trade company on West Broadway around the corner from Wall Street. Since Michael has this incredible way of gaining friends, the international trader invited Michael and M'nique to his villa somewhere nearby.  They talked about Michael's dream and the new friend considered Michael over the following 2 years.  Infact, that man visited Michael's parents in Sydney before making his final decision.  

You don't believe in fate?  I use to say that I knew Michael during his 5 years in New York City.  However, if you do the math, he and M'nique were leaving for the Americas when I was moving in with Randi, in Queens. When Randi and I were graduating from Hampshire College, Michael was taking Spanish classes at night where he met M'nique.  M'nique has always been very cautious, very Virgo.  However, when Michael said to her, "In a few months I will be leaving for a 2 year hike across Latin American, would you accompany me?"  M'nique said, "SURE!"  

Before I began realizing how and who was M'nique, I was an advocate for Michael separating from her.  I felt that she was very spiritually restricting.  I was wrong.  We all need friction, brakes, a prevention against destroying our tires, axels, suspension systems in emergency ramps at the bottom of steep hills.  Someone should be there with us to help us think twice, to help keep us on track.  When I think back to the end of my life in New York City, I feel sadness at not having developed a better friendship with M'nique.  

During my coffee house haunting in the East and West Village, I bumped into a beautiful young Jewish woman of Iraqui descent, Rivka.  I became so enchanted by her and even walked with her towards her NYU dormitory in the West Village a few times in the wee hours of the morning after Alt.Coffee on Avenue A had closed.  Rivka introduced me to her childhood friend Laura (later to change her name to Java and now to the Hebrew, Ilanit in Israel).  I dropped Rivka for Laura who was so profoundly interested in everyone and everything, creative, she was like a nymph with her energy floating around her.  Michael and M'nique consiguieron (how do you say that in English?) a table in the St. Marks Place Market, M'nique manning it during the week, while Michael was learning the international trading business around the corner from Wall Street. I introduced Michael and Laura and they immediatedly hit it off, the two of them Sagittarios, fellow travellers...  Laura introduced Michael to many esoteric ideas and movements, along with street activist movements, one of them being the movement for "Take back the streets" pressuring the Mayor's office to offer safer bike routes. Years later, Joey and I were invited to a few of those night time bike rallies where we blocked traffic with hundreds of bikers biking.  Little did I know, nor did I think about this until this moment, that years later my aunt Mary Beth would become a main advocate for amplifying and protecting bikers rights after she witnessed her husband's death by a NYPD Tow Truck when they were returning from eating dinner in Chelsey.  With Laura, Michael became very active in the Community Gardens movement in the East Village.  On one occasion I helped paint banners in Laura's apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, preparing for one of the Community Garden marches.  When I was a little boy visiting from central Jersey, Henry and Mary Beth took us to their community garden around the corner on the Upper West Side.  The community gardens were created for converting vacant and abandoned lots into productive green space, part of a take back the communities movements, since the vacant lots had tendencies towards becoming spaces for gang fights, and drug sales amongst other forms of delinquency putting at great risk the lives of the children living in those deteriorating neighborhoods.  Giuliani could put all the police on the streets that he wanted.  But nothing combats delinquency better than creating safe and comfortable public space maintained by the community living within those neighborhoods.  Abandoned buildings and overgrown lots create a desprecio (the communal devaluation of the communal self, a loss of self-respect and the opening for all types of additional negativity within that community).  Love and true respect for oneself is the #1 prevention  against suicide.  If you look at the history of New York City over the past 50 years, you will witness communal suicides from the Upper Upper West side, through Harlem, to Northwestern Brooklyn to the east and Coney Island.  When a community and a person loses faith, it and they become desperate.  With desperation comes psychological and spiritual exhaustion causing the inability for making good decisions and the incapacity for participating in local politics and the incapacity for participating healthfully in the lives of the children who may later grow into gang members, drug dealers, thieves and prostitutes...  If you want to prevent this, you've gotta offer better options.  One of those better options is a community garden, cleaner and safer streets, happier and healthier people personally active within their own lives and communities.  

Late summer 1998, Laura said to Michael. "There's a chamanism teacher visiting for two weeks from Xalapa, Veracruz. I think you'll appreciate Manolo's class."  Not only did Michael appreciate Manolo's class, Michael changed his whole life, moving away from Wall Street towards all forms of Holistic education and care, homeopathea, Riaki, meditation, chamanism... In fact, two months after I left for Mexico, Michael and M'nique returned to Australia, where Michael created his business Holistic Services Group http://www.holisticservices.com.au/programs/share/index.asp?P=368&L=2&SNID=1&ICID=20& 
The 7 years opened and closed for the two of us at the same time, shooting off into the following 7 year cycle that ended with the birth of Michael and M'nique's son Jarrah and with my becoming a permanent Mexican resident.

Not long after I introduced Michael to Laura, Mónica ruined the friendship between Laura and I.  While I was at Maimonides Hospital in Borough Park Brooklyn, Móníca broke into my email and began a conversation with various friends of mine including Laura.  When I called Laura from the hospital, she was very distant with me and told me that she was in communication with Mónica who told her things about me.  She was angry and hung up on me.  (Just a note, ---because the piece on Mónica hasn't yet been terminated--- Laura and I weren't romantically involved in the least bit and Laura knew about my problems with Mónica. What Mónica did was not that of a jealous wife upon discovering that her husband was cheating on her.  She was a manipulative and controlling monster bitch who wanted to literally fuck me up the ass with a strap-on and who kicked me in the throat once and who claimed that I couldn't remove her from my apartment "make me!"  Upon packing up her things she also packed up things of mine, such as my college diploma.  Why?)  Because Laura and I shared the mutual friend in Michael, I would be in contact with Laura on and off over the following 4.5 years.  She wouldn't talk about what Mónica told her.  I guess it doesn't matter, since the ball had been set in motion.  
When I suddenly decided to leave for Mexico, Michael was preparing for his trip to Xalapa, Veracruz for assisting Manolo.  However, upon arriving to Xalapa, Manolo told Michael, "I don't have time for entertaining you.  Find something to do and return in 2 weeks for the events.  Michael journeyed to the coast and met Poncho and Lety. On a recommendation by Manolo Michael entered the mountains around Pico de Orizaba and spent one week at Las Cañadas where he met Margarita.  Manolo occasionally took groups to Las Cañadas because it is an organic vegetarian ranch that offers alternative education and a Temezcal (sweat lodge) and was friends with the owner Ricardo Romero who would later kick me off his ranch for "dating" his cook.  8.5 years later I would bump into Ricardo at a patron saint fiesta in the very small rancheria Tepatzingo where Ricardo obtains most of his workers.  We would have a surprisingly satisfying conversation, Ricardo and his wife Tania, relieved that all had worked out for Margarita and I, probably feeling guilt at having attempted at coming between the two of us.  They invited us to visit them 2 weeks later, when Ricardo's summer vacation courses had concluded.

However, 8.5 years earlier, I met with Manolo at a cafe in Xalapa.  We had a tense conversation, since he had spoken with Ricardo Romero who had told him that Ricardo hadn't spoken with me and hadn't given me permission to enter the ranch.  Manolo said that I couldn't just appear and think that Ricardo would receive me.  I was confused because that last week I spent with Michael, I told Michael to send Ricardo an email informing him of my impending visit.  Michael had said, "That's not necessary mate.  You just show up at their milk and cheese shop in town, in Huatusco and they send their mini-bus for you and take you to the ranch.  It doesn't need to be so complicated." But I wasn't comfortable with Michael's informality and insisted upon him writing Ricardo.  And he did just that...  After being kicked out of Las Cañadas and spending a week with Poncho and Lety on the playa, I rushed back to Las Cañadas and asked Margarita if she would marry me.  She said yes.  But we decided to hold off on saying anything to her family, since we first must figure out how we would live together.  That night I had a confrontation with Ricardo who told me that I disregarded his rules, that there were Mexican forms of doing things and that I ignored those forms and that I had appeared at his ranch uninvited and unannounced.  I informed him that that was not true, that Michael had emailed him and that he hadn't responded to the email.  And that was where he caught himself in his own lie.  He said, "Yes, but I have the right to not respond to that email..."  I further reminded him that when I was waiting those 3 hours for his response at the store in Huatusco February 17th, I had told him that there was absolutely no need for me to spend time at his ranch and that all I would do was deliver the photos that Michael sent with me for them and leave.  Afterall, I didn't like Huatusco.  It was ugly, gray and cold.  I didn't like how Ricardo was receiving me (Michael hadn't informed me of Ricardo's character.  In fact, later on Michael would inform me that he had only spoken with Tania who said that she would speak with her husband about be.  I don't like being naive and socially unprepared.  I prefer being alone than being in unnecessary conflicts constructed over malinformation and misunderstandings).  After waiting 3 hours for Ricardo to give me a yay or nay, Ricardo radio-ed the store saying that he would send the answer with Margarita's younger brother Gregorio in the morning.  I was angry that whole night wanting to leave that moment.  But I had met Margarita that evening at the store.  When I presented myself as Michael's friend, she surprisingly kissed me on the cheek. So, deliberating awake that whole night, I decided that I must wait for the following morning when, at the very least, I would deliver Margarita the photographs taken by Michael at the ranch.  However, Gregorio appeared and informed me of Ricardo's message that I would work with Margarita in the kitchen...  

During the conversation with Manolo, Manolo spoke about the universal importance of pairing man with woman, of creating healthy relationships.  2 months later, Ricardo told me that Manolo warned him about me, that I lied and that Michael never told me to show up at the store without a warning.  I was surprised that Manolo would say such a thing.  But, was also surprised that Ricardo would blatantly lie, using another real person as the conveyor of that lie.  However, if Manolo had such powers of perception as he was teaching around the world with the base of Carlos Castañeda's writings, then how was it that he didn't realize that he was participating indirectly in the pairing of two people from distant realities who would create something very important for themselves and for others?

I'm sorry Michael.  You are a beautiful person.  But that doesn't mean that every person seemingly well intentioned has good intentions and that not all people are beautiful.  Manolo had said that he had competition in the teachings of Carlos Castañeda and that in the end, he must pay for his life.  It's kind of like selling the Gospels of Jesus in the doorways of the Cathedral...

During the two months of living at Las Cañadas, I didn't meet Karla.  During the following years Margarita emailed Karla.  But Karla didn't return her messages. While Gregorio was still working at the ranch, Karla had said that she would visit with Margarita the times Margarita was at her family's ranch.  However, she never appeared.  Then one day, 4 years later, during a beautiful crafts fair in the lakes, Karla appeared with Conchita...  And that finally brings us to date.  

As I had said repeatedly the 3 years we sold our cupcakes in The Lakes of Xalapa: 

One day a man will appear at our stand.  He will take interest in our cupcakes and will want to help us.  I don't know if he will actually participate in the buiness.  But he will have the economic means of helping us financially.  It was something I firmly believed...

And then negated that belief kind of as a New Year's Resolution:

Look, I admit that I was wrong; For the first time I admit that one of my senses, one of the messages I received over the years was pure stupidity, fantasy, wishful thinking.  No one is going to appear helping us succeed with the cupcakes and coffee.  It was a locura.  From now on I will accept my Mexican life as being very little by very little and let's see what we accomplish.  

I semi-unknowingly participated in something absolutely incredible.  I was content with myself and the situation, developing an increased faith in my ability to overcome difficult situations and in my ability to think clearly and change directions as needed.  We were 4 people working for a common goal with an understanding of where we were heading.  Nicolas and Rafael agreed to pool their salaries with the goal of buying a pick-up truck in 6 months.  We wished to be able to leave Xalapa with our cupcake and coffee business.  Margarita and I had overcome a ton of opposition around the placement of our second stand above the lakes infront of the House of Culture.  The neighbors ran up to the Mayor's office every other day sending the municipal street inspectors to investigate our permission certificate.  One night one of those inspectors threatened that if we didn't pack our stuff, he would have a municipal truck there in 5 minutes and bye bye stand and cupcakes...  The following evening a client friend passed by the stand while I was tending it, and after hearing the response to his question, "How are things going with the problems between you, the other venders and the municipal inspectors?"  He said, "Let me inform you, at this very moment, Ricardo Ahued and Fidel Herrera Beltran (the mayor and the governor) are at the Theater Faculty watching a performance. I suggest you go there, wait for them to walk out of the building and, like an American Football linebacker, YOU TACKLE ONE OF THEM."  He wasn't joking and also appeared at the function cheering me on.  It turns out that this man (I forget his name) said that he had grown up with Ricardo Ahued.  The both of them had Lebanese heritage.  So, I tackled Ricardo, explained what was happening.  He said that he had visited New York and that it was a beautiful city and that I should visit with him in his office the following day.  You must understand firmly; all the conversations and conflicts occurred in Spanish.  Not only did I learn to have balls, I developed cojones.  

Since we had one person for manning the stand in the lakes and one other person for manning the stand above the lakes and had an increasing demand for cupcakes, plus I was baking the wonderful giant cookies I had baked for my mother and Bruce's pre-wedding party, the same cookies my Hampshire College friend Debra had suggested I sell throughout New York City, I had very little time nor need for manning the tables.  However, like a good boss or business owner, I always walked down to the stands to check if they were set up correctly, always a concern.  During my 8 years working with one or many others of my brother-in-laws, I've become an expert at the concept of micro-managing.  

One clear late February morning, I was lingering at the stand enjoying the fresh air and the view of Cofre de Perote, the fourth highest mountain in Mexico, hovering over Xalapa and the lakes when a tall white man appeared at our stands.  

Chris said that he had visited Xalapa in July and had encountered us, asking if we offered dark roast coffee.  I had informed him of the Mexican prejudice against dark roasts as burning the coffee beans.  I explained that the Americans, Europeans and Carribeans want dark roasts.  But, my father-in-law is against roasting the coffee to that degree.  He asked me if, this time around I had dark roast and I said no.  We talked for at least a half hour, Margarita glaring at me, because she felt that I had the tendency towards lingering too long in conversations with clients and that I had some baking scheduled.  Chris asked why we didn't have a bakery/cafe instead of selling on some tables in the Lakes.  I started explaining our reality when he said, "look, I understand you have work to do.  How about I give you my email address and we continue the conversation over the internet."  

When Chris accepted one explanation, he hit me with another question: "why don't your in-laws create a cooperative as they have down in Chiapas?"  I explained that they've attempted that in the ranch but...  

In the middle of these interchanges with Chris, an artesans group from the state of Michoacan installed themselves throughout the first lake.  They installed the most beautiful white carps above 3/4 of the path circling the lakes and had crafts and artesans venders from as far away as Ecuador and Peru, Chiapas, the Yucatan, along with Oaxaca, Puebla, the state of Mexico, Tlaxcala, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi; Indigenous of Inca descent, Chamulas from Chiapas, Zapotecos from Oaxaca, Mixtecas and Mejicas from Puebla, Tlaxcala and Mexico, Purépechas from Michoacan and Huicholes from San Luis Potosi.  The director of the group, Professor Moises Alejandre was impressed with our appearance and asked why we didn't travel with his group.  During their 17 days in Xalapa, I was also visited by his two sons, Moises and Leonel asking me why I don't enter their group in Leon, Guanajuato, their best event during the year that starts on the 29th of May.  I explained that we didn't have transportation and that I figured we would have a pick-up no later than the end of July.  Moises Jr. commented that he had an old Chevy Suburban at one of his houses in Michoacan.  The question was how to transport it to Veracruz.  However, I explained to Moises that we still didn't have $30,000 pesos for buying his car and that I truly doubted we would make it to Leon.

During the second week of the crafts fair, Chris sent me an email saying, "I've listened to all of your arguments and I've run out of questions and suggestions.  Your arguments are sadly convincing, there is no remedy for the big fish swallowing the little fish.  I never thought I would say such a thing here.   However, I believe I can help you financially...."

It turns out that Chris Brown was a former hippy who had cut sugar cane in Cuba in the late sixties.  In the seventees he bought a large plot of land on the Olympic Peninsula before Seattle boomed, when property costs were extremely low.  He built his house, installed his plumming and electricity, he installed the fences surrounding his property and raised cattle, goats, sheep, cows; just as a hobby.  He had been a municipal building expector in semi-rural Washington State and had recently retired.  One day a wealthy man set foot on Chris's property and said that he was looking to buy property in the area.  Chris asked him what he was willing to pay and then exchanged his property for a very large check.  

Chris packed his stuff, and left for Merida, Yucatan.  He got tired of that climate and moved to Xalapa.  During his time in Merida he lent money to a man who wanted to improve his small cafe.  Not long after moving to Xalapa, he lent money to his laundry woman because her son wanted to buy a taxi.  We arranged for a meeting to talk about his loan.  I decided that that day all my brother-in-laws working with me would participate in the conversation.  That day I cooked Chinese food and didn't install the stands in and above the lakes.  Truthfully, the conversation was maintained between Chris and I because Chris spoke very little Spanish at the time. Chris asked me, "how much money do you need?"  I struggled with the answer, since I had always had difficulty asking things of people, especially having to do with money.  I started deliberating over the question of creating a bakery/cafe or going on the road with Moises Alejandre.  Chris became frustrated and said, "Look, think about what you truly want to do with your business. Don't talk to me about it.  It's not my concern.  And give me an amount. But, until you know what you are going to do with your business, I can't give you that money."  Chris left and I explained to Margarita and my brother-in-laws what had just happened, a bit in a daze.  

That Friday Karla appeared at our stand.  It turns out that she and her Italian friend/co-worker, Conchita were representing Las Cañadas at a plant festival in the House of Culture to the side of our other stand above the Lakes.  I hit it off with Conchita while Karla and Margarita reminisced old times.  Conchita was born in Bologna, Italy where my father studied and where my older sister Sheri was born.  She was living in Mexico for over 20 years, first in Guadalajara and then in the jungles of Chiapas and Guatamala, Guatamala City, San Cristobol de Las Casas, Las Cañadas and now Xico, Veracruz.  
Robert Johnson, Artist, Cartoonist, Mentor and Spirit

The follow Saturday they visited the stand with their friend Olivia who lives in Xico.  It turns out that Olivia, a 30-something Mexican woman from a wealthy Mexico City family, was living in the East Village of New York City at the same time that Michael and M'nique were there.  She told me that she had been very active in the community garden movement there.  I am sure that if we place the three of us in that situation in 2001 and 2002, we will see that Olivia, Laura and Michael knew each other...  In any case, Olivia said that she had a friend in Xico, Robert, who would love to meet me.  The following Sunday, Olivia returned to our stand with Robert, a 74-year-old retired artist and cartoonist who had worked closely with Robert Redford in the 70s.  Robert fell in-love with my cupcakes and invited me to his house in Xico.  When it was determined what we would do with the business, Robert offered to design our business logo and didn't accept payment.  Infact, he became very offended at the slightest suggestion.  However, he did accept cupcakes and friendship in exchange.

The baking ordeal reeped havok on the nerves of my right arm almost destroying my ability to use my right hand or to carry things on my right shoulder.  Since I understood the high returns of selling coffee by the glass and the low returns of high quality baked goods and the extensiveness of a professional bakery, especially on the road, I decided that we should remove the bakery from the endeavor.  Plus, working with and sampling our cupcakes and cookies created and maintained the 30-40 pound weight increase I had experienced alongside Margarita between 2003 and 2007.  

So I asked Chris to meet with us, told him what I had concluded and he suggested giving us a check for $30,000 USD.  We talked about the conditions. He didn't want dividends from the business on top of the loan payments.  He said that all he wanted was the 5% interest per month that his bank would have given him.  I told him that I needed a year to see how I worked the money.  He agreed to those terms and then a year later he removed the interest from the loan suggesting that I pay it back as I could, minimally $500 USD per month.  

What we didn't know was that Chris was dying from Hepatitis.  I don't know if he knew that.  But he died early this past October, at the age of 56 just before his 57th birthday, the same age my Uncle Henry died.  We had returned $18,000 of those $30,000 USD before he died.  The last deposit of $1,000 USD a few days before his death.  

By removing the bakery from the business, I had to change our name.  I had some good ideas. But there was the risk of one of the words, Chingon, offending the "educated" people. Since the business was focussed 100% upon the concept of a grassroots family coffee business, from the seed in the soil to the coffee cup, I visited the ranch in the attempt towards creating the name with my father-in-law and brother-in-laws.  I asked them what the Nahuatl name of their municipality Sochiapa signified.  They told me Rio Florido or Flowering River.  We played with that idea and how to connect it with their coffee. But it didn't work for me.  Then someone, probably Margarita, said, "Dad, didn't our congregation of Guadalupe Victoria (the first president of Mexico) have a different name years ago?  And Roberto entered into a long conversation about his grandparents and about who had been the founders of this congregation.  The original name of their ranch or congregation was also Nahuatl, Xicuintla, which is the river that divides the municipality of Huatusco from the Municipality of Sochiapa, that runs from the mountains to the sea.  Xicuintla signifies how a river begins from a hole on the side of the mountain (I'm at such a loss for the words, like an underground stream that suddenly explodes out of the ground.  Rio Xicuintla is Sochiapa, it's the same Rio Florido or Flowering River.  But it isn't the same as saying, The region of Xicuintla, the land of my forefathers where all of this began, where we cultivate the best coffee you've encountered in Mexico, that comes from the sweat of our backs and the love in our hearts.

Robert is pure light, although human with all those realities and complexities.  I bounced ideas off his head and he came to conclusions.  In the end, the logo for our coffee bags was his work. But well beyond creating the logo for our business and our coffee bags was the series of ideas with which he left me.  I hope to share them with you over the following days.

José Francisco and Margarita in Mexico City,
July/August 2007
Gabriel in La Purisima, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, July 2007
That April we bought a brand new Nissan pick-up seating 5 or 6.  We bought a professional coffee grinder.  We bought 3 frappe machines.  Of the $30,000 USD, we spent minimally $25,000.  We invited to join us 2 other brother-in-laws, José Francisco and Gabriel.  And in the end of May, we joined Moises Alejandre and his 2 sons in Leon.  Terminating Leon, we returned to the ranch in Veracruz and we bought a second pick-up and we were off on the road permanently...  

Zacatecas, September 2009
Did I forget something?  Of course...

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