Espejo: Mirror


Last night the inspectors came three times to run the gum sellers and other vendors off the zocalo. Each time they approached us, they wanted to know (but didn’t ask) what I was doing with them and why these children were playing with cell phones. But they just swept us away into the night, making disparaging comments about people who leave their children to work in the streets. To clarify though: Rosita had been with them all night, is always with them every night — until the inspectors come. She does leave the children when the inspectors arrive, but she does so only because it is far more likely that they’ll penalize her than one of the children.

So the upside was that we had more time to sit together and chat and practice taking photos.

On Cecilia’s turn with the camera, she only took videos to capture small clips of Julio screeching (something he was happy to do). She took at least forty videos, each no more than a second long.

On Julio’s (pictured left) turn, he and Augostino (right) wrestled for control until they found the function where they could see themselves as in a mirror. They tried on all sorts of funny faces before I reached over and snapped this one. They didn’t even know I did it as they were already testing another and another silly expression.

Mateo hoarded the other phone, listening to some music I had, asking me if I really like songs like that (folk) while taking at least ten snapshots of my feet and as many of his legs and even more of the cup of corn I bought for him. At home, downloading the shots, I couldn’t help but be impressed by these little artists.

Madrina: Godmother


One of the women who sells rebozos and chats with me for stretches at a time introduced me to one if her four children, Luis. Luis didn’t want to meet me. He smunched up his face when she ordered him to draw nearer to me. He refused despite her threats. I did not understand why she was so adamant we meet. I could see he is handsome from a distance.

I went on chatting with her about the stunning breeze, about the puppet show, about business today on the plaza. At the same time, Cecelia was thumbing through the photos I’d taken that day, asking intermittent questions about where the picture was taken. Easy to answer. About what was happening. Sometimes her guess was better than mine. About why I took the picture. I just blamed it on the blog which, to her, is no explanation at all.

Anyway, Luis scampered away, and this woman asked me if I’d consider being his madrina, godmother. I was stunned, explaining I’m not Catholic. She explained that what she is asking has nothing to do with the church.

He simply needs someone to accompany him as he progresses from elementary (primaria) to middle school (secundaria). I knew enough to be honored by the request, but I wanted to think about it before I agreed to be part of the ceremony on July 15th. She agreed that I should consider it.

This morning I asked Mari if it was as simple as my new friend had made it seem. She said I only need to attend the celebration (which sometimes involves him performing a waltz), present Luis with a bouquet of flowers and a small gift. My name would be recorded on the official rolls as his madrina. That’s almost all (in some cases, I would have to buy him a suit, including shoes).

But the real work, Mari explained, would be done by the announcer who’d have to figure out how to pronounce my name.

first communion 2

Viva Mexico


I’m not a very good sports fan. I can’t take the drama. Just being in a diner with fans on the edge of their seats can deliver anxiety to me as swiftly as someone refills my coffee.

The whole place groans at near misses, screaming (really screaming) in spots.

Holland is in orange. Nearly everyone here is in Mexico green, the green of a lawn on a sunny afternoon.

I don’t know how they can eat.

The roar of the crowd on the television and in the restaurant intensifies, drowning out the clattering of dishes by busboys, hiding the rattle of utensils tossed into their designated bins.

The crowd laughs together as someone misses the ball and cringes in unison as another near miss flashes before them.

I need to go, but I want to see them get a goal; they are so hungry, their eyes fixed on the possibility.

Only twenty-eight minutes in, as the goalie for Holland thwarts another attempt. As the crowd moans, I want more of the game.

I arrive at the zocalo at 12:05. Gol at 12:08. The fists are pumping. The flags are flying.

The crowd grows steadily. The excitement vibrates in the air.

The announcer seems to try to hurry the last thirty minutes.

People are clapping at the note of twenty-five minutes.

Then, the show begins to spiral; some of us hold our heads. We have a few cheers left in us, but not many.

We have nearly tasted the thrill of victory. Viva Mexico.





Cross-dresser Calenda


The enormous dolls towering over this parade were both elegantly dressed females (not the usual boy/girl, man/wife pair). However, the rest of the celebration featured men even more elegantly appointed, some in traditional dresses, others in pageant attire, more in club wear, some hardly wearing anything, and one stunning pavo real (peacock).

They were heading up Alcala at about the same time as another one of the drunken graduation calendas, but they never converged because those driving the drunks took a switchback, allowing this calenda to proceed first.

In a place where the women’s clothes are daily brilliant, they look even more colorful on men. I had to trot through a crowd of gawking locals and tourists, many waving rainbow-colored papel picado flags, to get to the front of the parade, to see its magnificence head on.

calenda 2  calenda 4 calenda

Masked (Little Business) Man

augostino Following the puppet show, I headed to the Zocalo to check in with the familia.  Agostino loved the idea of wearing a mask and was transformed instantly into the fiercest of luchadors, tackling Julio on the sidewalk and flinging his arms and legs wildly in the air.  I realized then that the mask was actually made for him.  It hadn’t given me even half of those powers.

Puppet Show



last night I went to an avant garde puppet show. There were only eleven attendees; at the front door, we were given masks to wear. Everyone had a mask — except for the single puppet with a bald spot. The man who controlled the puppet wore a pig mask; to his side stood a man in a luchador mask. As we all sat around a single white table in the mostly dark room. As we taxi drivers planned a strike for a living wage, I could not tell:
1. Who the actors were; most of us wore the same mask.
2. Whether I was one of the actors. I mean, I had a mask on, too. I think some people asked me questions.

At one point a man whispered in my ear. I sat like a stone, wondering if I was supposed to say or do something. I was supposed to whisper the same thing to my neighbor, but I failed to help in the spread of gossip.

At the end of the show, the actors walked out into the streets, telling us there was a strike in the streets; we, the unsure audience, sat for a few minutes before I said we should see if there is more show in the streets. There was nothing outside except the puppet wearing the pig mask propped outside the door of the theater. None of the actors were anywhere to be found.

At last, the man who’d been in the pig mask, the writer of this work, approached. I applauded for him. He asked, “What, did I miss the show? I was in my truck and lost track of time.” He insisted he had not been present. When the other actors returned, they were only slightly less coy.

I think some confusion is good in language learning, but I’m not sure I was ready for my masked adventure.