You and Aunt Rosa

So, you’ve moved to Mexico. I hope you will love Mexican culture and the people who both shape and emerge from it. The vast majority of people here are respectful, loyal types who hope to get ahead in life, but aren’t willing to sacrifice their souls in order to do so. It’s a fine balance here, and we trust that you will honestly review your values so that you can properly respect theirs.

Most days, it’ll be a great adventure, loads of fun, though sometimes you will feel like you’re living in a giant, open-air assisted living center. You might know about those places, because your parents or grandparents probably lived in one before they graduated to the nursing home and died. Here at Lakeside, it’s a bit different, and definitely better. Herb’s house is on the hill, Martha’s is down by the lake, Betty afforded one of the little apartments right off the square, Jim and Joe share a small place in Mirasol. They all like to get together for lunch, bridge, dancing, or whatever their imaginations can cook up.

There are hundreds of enterprising Mexicans around who, for not a whole lot of money, are willing to meet your needs in this place for far less than in other countries. They do everything from scrubbing your floors to making you lunch to settling you on the toilet so you can do your business. Others drive you to where you need to be next, and then another place after that if you wish, and another. Other Mexicans plan events that you can attend, where they entertain you with music, special cuisine, their uniquely beautiful children marching around all dressed up, and the handsome men will bend down and give you kisses when you turn 80.

If you’ve moved here young, the trick will be not to identify too much with the gringos who’ve long called Lake Chapala “the last shore excursion.” Otherwise, you’ll grow old before your time, and no one wants that. However, listening to the gringos? Oh, that’s a lot of fun. There are lots of good stories in old minds here, so pull up a chair and have a cup of whatever with them. You’ll undoubtedly find wily old bastards and kinky old gals who are stuck down here, all seemingly sprung from the pages of an Elmore Leonard novel; they’ll tell you tales that will curl your hair. Many gringos here fled to Mexico long ago because no one up north would have them, and you’ll like those people the best.

In fact, I bet you didn’t realize how entertaining older people can be back when you lived around thousands of them in the USA, Canada, or Europe. You never took the time to sit down with one of them and talk for even 30 minutes. (I know; me neither.) Old people are not revered in your home country, but they are here. Mexicans consider it an honor if an old person shares their stories with them.

You see, in their culture, if there’s a party going on, you can bet it will include Aunt Rosa, 80, who will stay until two o’clock in the mañana. It took four big hombres to haul her ample body, tucked into cushioned chair, up the 20 steps to the eventos room. A teenager gladly sits and wipes the birria juice off Rosa’s chin while she eats and regales the gathered children about her sister’s wedding decades ago. The older kids and young adults have heard this tale at least 12 times, and Aunt Rosa knows it but doesn’t mind if they listen in again.

On her sister’s wedding day long ago, just minutes before the ceremony was to begin, Rosa watched in awe as her sister, without a word, hitched up her dress, waved goodbye to her groom, jumped on a horse and rode off with an unknown caballero, still wearing the mantle of white lace that had been handed down by ancestral grandmothers since 1782. After the priest announced what had happened, Rosa’s parents had fallen into deep shock and shame for weeks, until Rosa restored them to proper society – her sister’s intended groom became her husband instead. Aunt Rosa so wishes she could have used the mantle at her wedding, as it would have soothed the sacrifice of having to marry such a loathsome man, may God rest his ugly soul and not use it again. But alas, she never saw either the mantle or her sister again, though a letter came from Tijuana informing them that she had crossed the border to a new life in California.

The story is done, and Aunt Rosa blows her nose into an embroidered handkerchief, its honking of snot kicking off the music, which makes the children fall over in laughter. Rosa requests her favorite song of the band, then nods off as it plays, her toe tapping out of rhythm as the adults embrace in a dance. It’s all so beautiful, the children think, and funny, too. They stare at Aunt Rosa as long as they can because they know that she’ll soon disappear, and they don’t want to miss a second.

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Margaret Porter
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