Pico de Orizaba

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Outhouses... and my Mother and Bruce's first visit to Mexico

The first time my mother and her husband Bruce visited us was in April 2004 during a week long monsoon, although monsoon season is from late June until August...  When they were planning the visit, my mother said, "I want to visit your in-law's ranch."   Well, that idea horrified me. Why? Because the world she was about to enter was so far from her personal experience.  I spent days worrying about her response towards a kitchen with a dirt floor and a bathroom without a light, without a tank for flushing and without a door; the bathroom and the shower had curtains...  I said to myself, but you love the kitchen with the dirt floor and you accepted the bathroom (outhouse).  But, I also understood that I am much more flexible than other people, I accept and address realities others prefer ignoring...  Plus, my mother leans towards material comfort and almost excessive hygiene and order...  I couldn't forget how she had responded when I told her that, if I returned to New Jersey, I would be returning with my Mexican wife.  I couldn't forget the explosion in my mother's old kitchen in 1997 when the conversation arose about my new girlfriend being Puerto Rican, how her best friend Judy began singing the song Maria from Westside Story, the both of them dancing a jig and then Judy accusing me of dating the Puerto Rican woman as a rebellion against my family, you do it for the effect to create a reaction to create conflict, not unlike my Aunt Esta's accusation 9 years later.  

I abhored the idea of taking my mother and Bruce to Margarita's family's ranch.  The visit could be enjoyable without taking them to the ranch.  I could show them around Xalapa, take them to the Teocelo Falls, to Coatepec and Xico.  I could take them to Naolinco, to the Archeological Site Tajin, to the coast, to the Port of Veracruz, to Tlacotalpan and Catemaco, to Hernan Cortez' first house in Mexico along the River Antigua.  But should I take them to Margarita's families ranch?  Not only was I concerned about my mother and Bruce's reactions, I was concerned about how my in-laws would receive them...  Gregorio was openly racist.  Many Mexicans react harshly upon hearing English spoken, although they listen to more music from the U.S. and Great Britain than from their own country, watch almost exclusively American sitcoms, cartoons and movies and wear t-shirts that say things in English they don't understand.  For instacne, a young man is walking alongside his girlfriend wearing a t-shirt that says "Quickly! Kiss me before my boyfriend comes back."  I saw that t-shirt so often in the Lakes that I had the urge to do exactly what it said and then explain the significance afterwards.  Where was the problem?  I would have been following instructions. Had I not been married to Margarita, maybe I would have enjoyed it too....  If I had the balls, and if I didn't fear being smacked in the face... Do you read my smile?   My issue wasn't so much with the shirt, nor with the language, but with the general hypocritical response I received upon being heard speaking in English;  the dirty looks, the sarcastic smiles, the whispering in the other person's ear while looking back at me.  Imagine being a parent and finding out that your daughter's T-shirt says over the breasts, "GOT MILK?" or that her shorts say on the back side, "JUICY"... The pseudo-intellectual activists claim that the Imperio opresses them with it's commerce.  However, what those people don't understand is that the Mexicans are the people bringing into the country ropa Americana, clothing made by "American" companies.  Before leaving for Mexico, Michael suggested that one way for aumenting my economic situation in Mexico was by crossing the border with American clothing brands.  Of course I balked on that crazy idea.  We know many Mexicans who import American clothing and other products.  How often was it suggested that I help someone bring clothing or used cars to Mexico?  Reality bores and fantasy kills...  The Mexican government and the Mexican press wishes for the ignorant Mexicans to believe that Mexicans aren't accepted in the U.S. and that they are frequently killed by American racists on the other side of the border.  However, that doesn't explain why only 15% of the Mexicans migrating to and living in the U.S. return to Mexico for living here permanently.

The problem with removing a day at the ranch from my mother and Bruce's Veracruz travel agenda was that my mother informed me proudly that she and Bruce were bringing a gift for Roberto and Paz.  They had found a copy of my marker "painting" of the apple tree and placed it with a very expensive frame...  So I said nothing.  I just fretted to myself.

That rainy day we bought two cases of Negra Modelo and we brought two of my Chocolate-Coffee Cream Cheese cakes.  All my brother-in-laws were at the ranch and my mother-in-law Paz invited her brother "Negro", his wife, their two young daughters and Paz's parents.  The day was spent in the kitchen.  Bruce and my mother were incredibly pleased.  In fact, my mother asked Paz to show her how to prepare sopes (corn dough pancakes they cover with black beans and farmer's cheese or spicy tomato sauce with cheese).  Later on my mother and Bruce told me that what they found most enjoyable about their visit to Mexico and Veracruz was the visit to the ranch...  No complaints about nothing, not even having to use the outhouse.

Well, let me tell you about outhouses.  For one thing, they are outside the house.  So, if you have a bathroom problem similar to mine, not only must you become very familiar with the outhouse, but you must use it at night.  The house is extremely quiet with the exception of the snoring, the house is very dark, the bedrooms don't have doors, just curtains...  Everyone can hear your every step, the creaking of the bed, the opening of the metal door...  I don't turn on the lights in the house.  But I turn on the lights outside the house so I don't step on one of the dogs or on a chicken, directly outside the room that my father-in-law and mother-in-law share with their 3 younger daughters (Erica and Iris 18-years-old August 6th and Alba 21-years-old) illuminating their room.  If someone is a light sleeper that person will know just how often I use the bathroom at night, if it was a bad food day...  Since the bathrooms don't have doors, you can hear every noise...  I've been very self-conscious about this issue ever since my first surgery. I was always amazed that Scott could talk on the phone with friends while he was sitting on the toilet.  SORRY!  Can't do that!  Ok.  Since the bathroom doesn't have a door, the dogs enter it to eat the used toilet paper, leaving their fleas.  The chickens leave their fleas too.  Since the bathroom and the shower don't have lights, you can't see the mosquitos in order to kill them before they leave a nice big welt on your lower cheek... The shower is a garden hose tied to the ceiling of the shower stall.  And that's it.  Between the door to the back of the house and the bathroom and shower is a dirt floor that fills with the fleas from the chickens and the dogs and becomes muddy in the rainy season.  If you are showering and your clothes or your towel falls outside the curtain, it falls in mud that has a lot of these bugs...  From November until mid-february, the water is ice cold. When we're at the ranch during those months, Margarita heats water on the stove and I bathe myself with mugs of water I pour over my head.  Can you imagine a problem connected with 14 people living under one roof with one toilet and one shower?  From 5am until 8am there is a line for the toilet.  If we are going to a fiesta, there is a line for the shower and we tend towards being late for the event.

José Francisco and Wilfrido

In any case, the reason I'm writing this is because after 8.5 years visiting the ranch, I 
suggested to Margarita and my brother-in-laws that Margarita and I purchase the materials for putting down cement behind the house, tiling the bathroom and the shower, for installing lights, doors and a wonderful shower head, one that I had used in my Uncle Henry's house when Randi and I were baby sitting our cousins Asher and Zoey in 1996.  In December we will buy a boiler...  One thing I must say about the men on the ranch or at least about Roberto's 8 sons, not only do they know how to plant and cultivate wonderful café, they also know how to construct their own houses and install and repair anything having to do with plumbing, electricity, carpentry, or masonry.  The only thing lacking is the money for creating more attractive and comfortable homes...
José Francisco

No comments: