Profiling Tepehua – April 2016

Profiling Tepehua

By Moonyeen King
President of the Board for Tepehua


tepehua april2016The barrio of Tepehua is a sprawling nest of homes in various shapes and sizes…growing out of the unforgiving rock of hill above Chapala. For some hovels there are no roads but they are connected to the world by steps that join upper roads to lower roads. A test of stamina. When you are half way down you begin to think about the climb up.

The Tepehua Community Center has a program called Habitat Tepehua, mainly funded by sporadic grants from Rotary International. Its purpose is to repair the homes in dry season, preparing for heavy rains, if not through leaking roofs, through run off hitting the walls of mountainous terrain homes.

This is adventure season, when this writer tours homes checking on requests for help, along with Gustavo the contractor who buys needed material for individual problems.  The plan is that we supply material and people find their own labor or do it themselves, under the watchful eye of Gustavo…and if work isn’t completed in two weeks or so, the material is removed for another home. The views most hovels have is worth a million dollars in California…. rolling hills, blue mountains, an incredible sky that makes everything look like a bowl beneath it.

(Omar Khyyam wrote:  And that inverted bowl we call the sky, whereunder crawling cooped we live and die, lift not your hands to it for help, for it impotently rolls as you or I…. harsh…but the truth.)

Crawling patches of cement blocks seemingly winding their desperate way between rocks to climb out of the bowl. The astonishing thing is, with all this wondrous view, the cement blocks have few windows, or if they do it is a high tiny slit of light that makes its way into dark interior.  It is like returning to the security of the womb.

Security and privacy are sacred in these hills. Although they have plenty of nothing, it is theirs and yet it is coveted by others. The cement walls and floors hold the previous seasons damp because sunshine is an uninvited guest.  For sunshine they live outside; when sun begins to slip behind hills, people retreat into their security. Lights or candles go on and a hundred little nativities spring up the mountain side, bolted doors…and the sound of families coming together.

There are main streets in Tepehua, Solar City lights come on (yes, Solar), and keep the night at bay…here you will see children unsupervised playing in the streets until they tire around midnight…or whenever the parent calls them in. For most of these children there is no school…for the responsible families there is a curfew.

Season by season we patch up the homes, they have dignity in living. Where we can and if we have the money, we try to deal with sewer run off.  Primitive septic tanks over flow and follow gravity down the mountain and find their stopping place that creates health hazards and stench to the homes beneath. Especially in the rainy season. Still, pride and grace live there. The writer has been invited into homes, so humble, but you feel the peace, sending you back to your own comparative grandeur that is irritating.

One takes a second look at the dust collectors we have and wonder why we have them. Is it the primitive need to horde? Or the security blanket?

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