By Micki Wendt
A new game called canicas seems to have evolved in my neighborhood now that the rains have started. Boys of all ages and a few grown daddies, too, sometimes a dozen of them, play this game in the street with great interest, laughter, hooting, and howling. It appears to be a unique and imaginative hybrid of… golf, gambling, and billiards, played with…marbles…and a few pesos, in the rough, rutted, puddled cobblestone course they charted out.
As if serving appetizers at an elegant soiree, a girl walks by my bench in the Plaza carrying a tray of funny little hand-crafted bobble-headed birds for sale, all of them nodding together silently in the breeze. I buy a couple of them to make her happy.
At the Tres Reyes (Three Kings) fiesta in the plaza on January 6, I sit down by a family who had a pig-tailed toddler running – no…sprinting around into the crowd on her already sturdy little legs while the mom and grandma sit calmly by as the bigger kids keep running every which way to fetch her. I note her apparent athletic talent and they tell me she is exactly One Year And Fifteen Days…meanwhile at least a hundred young kids are merrily chasing around the area without even a faint whiff of bad behavior – but that’s perfectly normal here.
Across the street, my neighbor is getting some work done on her house, giving me a good chance to watch the almost acrobatic albañil work from his single narrow plank like a gymnast’s balance beam, suspended about 4 feet above the ground on two metal drums on the sloping sidewalk. The guy nimbly jumps up and down from his perch, bending over to mix the cement in a small tray at his feet then expertly slaps it on the wall. Later, he’s working even higher, looking up all the while at the boveda overhang above, mixing and slapping on more concrete, balancing on a small ledge – without scaffolding or safety measures or fear.
Upon leaving the San Andres church after a funeral Mass, I’m struck by the seemingly incongruous sound mix of the mournful and somber tolling of the bells and a mariachi band playing outside. I quickly realize that the cheerful melodies helped soothe the sadness of the day, although the usually romantic lyrics are appropriately sad for the occasion…goodbye, forever, etc…and as the sun just barely peeks out from the lingering drab grey, the whole large crowd of mourners walks over a mile through Ajijic to the cemetery accompanied by the mariachis with the coffin carried on the strong shoulders of the pall bearers. There are more prayers, crying, wailing, screaming, mixed with the melodious mariachi music that continues until the deceased is buried deeply in the ground.
Pacing back and forth in the plaza at high noon, a very portly foreign man in a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, socks, and sandals, bellows loudly into his invisible cell phone (or to his invisible friends?) while gesticulating dramatically with his free hands and arms with great self-importance, as if he were auditioning for a Shakespearean play. My friend and I cringe and laugh. We do not applaud the performance.
An ancient cowboy passes me on the street and softly calls me “chiquita”.
My maid and I like to play-fight over Alejandro Fernandez, the abundantly handsome and romantic singing superstar from Guadalajara…Oh, look, my boyfriend is on TV…no, he’s MY boyfriend…no, es mio…no, es mio, mio, mio!!…well, he fathered MY children! We laugh. She wins!
And so goes the daily, delightful minutiae of living in Ajijic.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com