El Otro Lado Part 2

19 Jul 2004|Added Value

This blog is taken from my travel journal on my trip through small towns near rural areas in Mexico in the last two weeks. Last week, I covered Matahuala. This week, I went to Atlixco near the city of Puebla, a beautiful town near a Volcano called El Popo. Unlike Matahuala, Atlixco is not in the Northern regions. Still, the US is becoming an increasingly meaningful part of their lives. El Otro Lado, for the folks of Atlixco, is Queens, New York. Like Matahuala, I learned of interesting US influences, such as Italian Pizzeria’s that folks open in these small towns that apparently are so tasty, using the local anejo queso panela (aged panela cheese), that Domino’s has not been able to penetrate these regions. (These regions are known for their quality agriculture and unique cuisine, such as Mole Poblano, and Pipian, and Memelitas. Standard grocery stores have not fared well in these regions, as everyone shops at the Tuesday and Saturdays Mercado where farmers will come from all regions to buy and sell goods. See pictures below. Note woman selling goods, while holding a Pepsi bottle in her hand. ) But mostly, I learned of the entrepreneurial drive that some of the people return with when they return from the US, a standard that is set for everyone else. I spoke with young men who dreamed of opening up Deli’s, like the ones in Queens, NY. I also spoke to young men who now noticed that some thing is not working, that something has to change. They have been to the US with others, suffering in a small room to make a few dollars. They barely eat while there, as their mother taught them, el que sufre, merece (those that suffer will later deserve). Yet the people return, and as one kind gentlemen told me, spend all of their money on a part, remain drunk for literally one month, and then find themselves starting all over again. He has now divided his world up between those that have the entrepreneurial drive to start Delis and those that party for one month.

I had the privilege of spending a day with a family that lived on piece of land in the town that took up an entire block. The grandmother, a 74 year old woman, had purchased the land about 40 years ago. Today, all of her children had build one or two rooms on the land, most of the family, absent the one’s that had left to the US, was living there. She told me her story: “I saved, and saved, I would not even celebrate my childen’s birthdays. I had eleven children. I washed clothes, I cooked, I sewed, I did whatever it took, and I saved. Now I have a piece of land for each one of my children. I never celebrate. Ever.” Celebrations with large festivities are important for feeling like on is a part of the community. Her eyes filled with tears when she told me that recently, on her 50th wedding anniversary, her children gave her a large party, the whole town was invited. She told me about this great sense of peace she now feels, expressing how she has lived fully. But she cannot quite make sense of why her son left to the US, why he is not satisfied with the room, the land, and selling food day to day to make ends meet? She understands that schools require books and tuition for her grandchildren, and that making ends meets is not sufficient for these expenses. She prays that her son, who left Saturday, will make it over the boarder safely.

In the same home, her grand-daughter, is watching Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet” on cable TV. What if they could be better informed of how their friends, neighbors, and families are living in Queens New York, I ask?




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