The Mexico Moment

I love this picture. It was taken at a party in San Miguel the other night by Richard Quick, a photographer who was also at the party. I love this photo because I had no idea it was being taken. I was hanging out with a new friend I’ve met here, Martha. This was the second time Martha and I had been at a party together, so we were feeling comfortable enough with each other to just act silly. I don’t remember what we were clowning around about, but I love that Richard was able to capture a random moment so perfectly.

Last night Fred and I had gone out to dinner and were walking back to our house. We decided to take the long way home and walk through the center of town, where the Parroquia (that very ornate, very photographed,  pink church) sits and keeps watch over the square. There were some people just relaxing in the Jardin…families, couples, people with dogs, bands that were playing and passing the hat. From inside the church we could hear a woman singing acapella. I had no idea what she was saying, but the sound could only be described as compelling. We didn’t hesitate to go inside to see the source of this remarkable voice. As is usual with moments, the minute we entered the singing stopped. There were maybe 40 people inside the church and the woman who had been singing was now speaking to them in Spanish. We turned and walked away. As we exited the church doors, to walk down to the steps leading to the sidewalk, the bells started to ring. Since we were right under the sound it felt like it was vibrating inside my body. That was another Mexican moment. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, the bells stopped.

As we walked through the square and headed down Zacateros to our house I said to Fred, “This is like walking in a dream.” At that moment it occurred to me…I have so often over the years dreamed of living in Mexico. The appeals in some ways are obvious. I like the weather. I love the colors. The food really suits me. I love the culture. I love that there are so many reasons for parades, and music, and dancing. I have always wanted to learn a foreign language. I find it stimulating to be in a country where everyone doesn’t look like me. I am really ready not to be in the South of my childhood. All these are rational reasons. But the real reason is much harder to express. It doesn’t come from my intellect, it comes from my heart. The real reason is that when I am in Mexico, my soul takes flight. When I am in Mexico I feel like I am much more in contact with my true self. When I am in Mexico I have these moments that completely take my breath away with their simple beauty.

 

The Universal Language

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The woman in this photo sits on the street in San Miguel and begs. There are not many beggars in San Miguel, and most of them are elderly. It always touches my heart to see them. While I would like to “fix it”, I know that I can’t. I know that I can’t put pesos in every outstretched hand, just as I can’t buy a newspaper from every street vendor in Nashville. Fred had given this woman a bit of change. I loved her face. I hesitated to ask if I could take her picture. I gave her 15 pesos. But, when I pressed the shutter, the smile was real, as was my smile to her. We had a little exchange of energy, and it was a good moment.
When I walk down the street here in San Miguel I like to interact with people. I don’t mean to generalize, but I have come to sense that most of the local people are rather shy. I usually have to initiate any exchange. It would be easy to decide that they would rather I just left them alone. But, what I have found is that they are waiting for me to make the first move. If I say “buenos dias” and smile, I get a warm response. The people here seem to appreciate my faltering attempts at speaking their language. I think a smile is the universal way for people to communicate. Some days I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Most days I feel like I have somehow come home.