Jennifer Moore, is a free lance web content, and SEO expert, who is a travel, writing ,and photography enthusiast, and a volunteer English and computer teacher in ranch schools outside of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Mexico is a gorgeous country, the towns, the joyous people, and the biodiversity capture your heart, but there is a part of Mexico that many foreigners and tourists don’t know. I had lived in different areas of the country and even I knew little of these areas. I am not talking about any part of the country itself, not the countryside, or the natural beauty of the area, but about the towns and villages of Mexico, and the people of these towns, or the ranchos as they are called.
Sure I knew they were there, I had even visited many of them, but I had never been a part of the community. I had hired gardeners, plumbers, electricians, and house help from the ranchos but I never really knew them, and I never was a part of their community until I moved to a Rancho some four years ago. This is when I truly learned of the true beauty – and heartache – of Mexico.
I live in a small town called San Jose de la Amistad, which sits about five miles east of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. You can get to San Jose de la Amistad by taking the highway to Los Rodriguez and then on the first curve about three miles from San Miguel de Allende, you will see a dirt road off to the left. By following that dirt road a mile and a half you will reach the village.(no signage that this small village even exists). For many years there wasn’t a road sign or any indication that this village was even here (now an American who bought a house on the road to town put a sign up).
The only reason I found San Jose de la Amistad was because I was driving around one day looking for a place to rent. When you rent a home here, the best way to find the perfect rental is by asking all the locals. Luckily – for me that is – many homes sit here vacant as many of the residents have moved to the States to work. So I found the perfect local home (the owner – a Mexican working in the states). At first the locals were very wary of me, and I guess I can understand (what Gringo would want to live in one of their homes?). Here was this gringa living in a small two room home, and she was comfortable, albeit in a local home (tin roofs and all!). What was she doing here?
But I soon started helping in any way I could. I gave rides to town, I translated letters, woke up at four a.m. to take someone to the bus station, so they could make it to the Doctor. My children made friends with their children. There was no judgment, and no advice given and finally they opened up and told me their stories.
I met Estela whose husband has been in the States for the last five years and has not seen his children growing, but who calls every night. A man who sometimes helps financially and sometimes doesn’t, but who gets the respect every father should get. Estela now considers me her friend, and I am deeply honored. I go to all the lunch, dinner, and quince años I am invited to and I eat the same dish (mole for special occasions) over and over again. I truly admire this tireless woman who works as a house keeper and then comes home and cleans every inch of her home, and who manages to take her 10 year old son to a doctor in a city that is an hour or two away every month for treatment for a brain tumor. Her day starts at 5 am and ends at 11pm. (I don´t think I could ever do that).
I have met her father who is 90 years old and takes the same 20 sheep out to pasture every day. He walks with them for about 5 to 10 miles a day. I watch his bent and frail body go with those sheep every day and wonder how a man so bent from the ravages of time can walk so far. But he does, and he leaves every day between 6 and 7 in the morning aided by the long thin cane he fashioned himself from mesquite, (I gave him an aluminum one, but he only uses it for church) and returns every evening between four and five, tireless as I could never be. Although sometimes I believe he does tire, as my daughter is asked from time to time to go out with his great grand children to bring the sheep back into the pen.
I talk to my neighbor and landlord Macrina, who remembers the ranch twenty years ago when there was no electricity or even running water. I watched her suffer when her husband was seriously injured when a car ran his bicycle off the road and then sped off. I stood by her as she worried what would happen if he could no longer work and brought in the needed $40 a week.
I am fond of the neighbor I give a ride too at 8:00 pm who walks the three miles to the highway to meet her children (the bus won´t drive in) returning from school. She can´t read or write, but has managed to put one of her children through college and is working with the other three. “One year to go!” she says ¨”and my daughter is a lawyer”, said with so much pride she could cry.
Contrary to what many people believe, these are the hardest working, the most determined and the loveliest people in the world. They fight every step for what little they get, and if they are uneducated it is for lack of opportunity, of positive reinforcement, and because traditionally they have been taught to believe they are under deserving. Now, you see me walking with them into every government office, petitioning for their needs and their rights, no longer ignored because the gringa is with them. But why does my presence make a difference? Shouldn´t they be heard and attended without me? It is the prejudice of Mexico that causes this.
I find that I cannot turn my back on these people, I cannot ignore them, hide behind a language barrier, or the belief that they are lazy. Their faces and stories haunt me and I help in every way I can. One Town at a Time is a terrific project. Come and see what they are doing and how they are making a difference in Rancho life in Mexico. Please support and visit us at www.onetownatatime.com