Tag Archives: Cerano

Tio Felipe


So two weeks ago, Tio Felipe died.  He just missed reaching a century.  He went peacefully in his sleep.

I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about his life. He married Mama Sofia shortly after her husband Porfirio died from a burro kick. He too was a recent widower with 10 children at home. So she took her youngest daughter, just two years old, and moved in to care for his children. She left her 3 teenagers in the house that her husband had left her at his death. Her oldest daughter married soon after, although that marriage didn’t stick. Her oldest son also married and in short order, started the Flores clan of which I now belong. Her second son went off and nobody is quite sure where is lives at the moment.

However this post isn’t about Mama Sofia, but Tio Felipe. From all accounts, he was a bit of a scoundrel. Of course, I didn’t meet him until he was in his late 80s and his tomcatting ways were long gone, but there was still a bit of a rascal in him.

Although he was married to Mama Sofia more than 45 years, the Flores clan always differentiated their relationship with him. He was never Papa Felipe (grandpa) but Tio Felipe (Uncle) and when asked by someone outside the family if he was their grandfather, it was always vehemently denied with a look of fuchila (bad odor) on their faces.

There was reason for their disdain.  On several occasions when we went to visit, we found Mama Sofia in tears. Once it was over some of her flowers Tio Felipe had cut in spite after an argument. Other times she wouldn’t tell us why she was crying. There was a history of abuse. Mama Sofia’s children said that he would often beat her about the head and they blamed her loss of hearing on those beatings. Once he pushed her down the front steps which broke her nose and cracked her skull. When her children asked her to leave and live with them, she replied that Felipe was her cross to bear. For what sin, I never asked. Abandoning her children, marrying again, some other sin? Despite it all, she managed to outlive him, although I don’t expect it will be by much.

This past year Tio Felipe’s cataracts got the best of him. He stayed closer to home for the most part. We stopped to visit last Dia de Los Muertos to find out that he had asked someone to take him to the cemetery in Purandiro to visit his parents’ graves. I wondered who would lay flowers at his grave and asked about his children. In total, he had had 13 children with his first wife, not all of whom reached adulthood. He mentioned that one of his sons was currently in Cerano getting divorced, and there might be a daughter or two nearby, but as for the other 6 that he still believed to be alive, he didn’t know where they might be. They never visited.

Even though Mama Sofia and Felipe were married more than 45 years, he gave the title of the little bitty house and land they lived on to his son. Felipe wasn’t even cold in his grave, the novena had yet to finish, when that son came and padlocked the door, ousting Mama Sofia from her home. She stayed at a distant relative’s home until the novena ended and went with her daughter to Zamora to live out the few months or years remaining.

And so, we add yet another tomb to visit on El Dia de los Muertos. (See Visible Mourning, El Dia de Los Muertos)





Filed under Death and all its trappings

Growing old



Mama Sofia in front of her home.

Over the holidays, we were able to visit with Mama Sofia, my husband’s grandmother, and her husband, Tio Felipe. Mama Sofia holds a special place in my husband’s heart. When he was homeless at the age of 12, she took him in. The two times he was deported with nowhere else to go, she opened her home to him. How could he not love her? How could we not love her?

We try to get to Cerano every month or so, but sometimes daily life gets in the way and we aren’t able to visit as much as we would like.


Mama Sofia with 2 of her 4 children, Pepe and Caro.

We were delighted to see that Mama Sofia’s daughter, Caro, was also visiting from Zamora. She’s quite a lively lady, gets it from her mother I expect. The first time I met Mama Sofia, she was just arriving home with a 10 pound sack of planting soil slung over her shoulder. When my husband tried to take it from her, she got angry.

This time, we were sad to see the decline in Mama Sofia as old age takes its due. She is 97 (or 95 or 92 no one is quite sure least of all Mama Sofia herself) or so and life is hard after all.

Mama Sofia is not able to get around to do her shopping, attend mass, or visit with friends, most of who have long since died anyway. Her balance is precarious and she often falls and injures herself in her own home. Her great-grandniece looks in on her daily and brings her the tortillas that Mama Sofia can no longer make. Vendors know to stop by with geletina, gorditas or tacos de canasta. There is a little bitty market right across the street and the owner brings over cooking oil, rice, tuna and pasta. The priest walks over from the church after Sunday mass to give Mama Sofia communion. All these activities keep her mind from stagnating, but there are hours and hours of daylight left to occupy.

Mama Sofia is still able to straighten her rooms, make the beds, sweep the floors and heat some soup.  Her plants are lovely.  The fruit trees provide guayabas, granadas, limones and nisperos.  She doesn’t haul planting dirt anymore, nor does Tio Felipe plant corn.

Both Tio Felipe and Mama Sofia receive a dispensa (government welfare) box every few months for the tercer edad (senior citizen). It has cooking oil, rice, beans, pasta and soap. Picking it up, however, requires a trip to Yuriria, which is nearly too much for Mama Sofia these days. Doctor visits are also pretty much out of the question. The walk to the newly built clinic is long and full of uneven ground. The wait to see a doctor is interminable. When Mama Sofia is ill, the ladies of the family in Cerano take turns caring for her until it passes. Sometimes Caro is able to come and stay awhile. Sometimes she can’t. Life is hard in Zamora too.


Toasting peanuts on the comal.

The day of our visit was mild and we sat outside with Mama Sofia on the cemented step. She didn’t say much, just enjoyed the pleasure of having company. Tio Felipe made himself useful and toasted peanuts on the comal. My husband went and bought some chicken and we had a veritable feast.

Too soon, we had to say our goodbyes. The animals need attending to. The roads aren’t safe to drive after dark. There are things that need to be done before we retire for the night. We left, knowing that the days we will be able to visit with Mama Sofia are numbered and promise ourselves that next week, or the week after, we’ll make the time to visit again.




Filed under Cultural Challenges, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Courting in Cerano

The tianguis on Sunday in Cerano.

The tianguis on Sunday in Cerano.

Last weekend we gathered our chichares (junk) together and headed to Cerano to see what we could sell for cash. (See Failing at your own Business–Tianguis) The morning was busy but uneventful. We sold things right off the bat and then sold some more. Buyers were typically male and campesinos (country folk). We sold enough for us to get some Cerano specialty carnitas de res (fried cow parts) and ice cream. My husband, as always, was in charge of any and all business, therefore my son and I had some free time on our hands. We decided to people watch.

El templo in Cerano.

El templo in Cerano.

Every town has its “circuit” where the young girls and boys circle around and observe, talk to or hook up with members of the opposite sex. In Cerano, Sunday afternoons in the tianguis (flea market) is the place to be. Things really didn’t get interesting until after mass, around 12 pm. Then the young people began to peacock around.

Watching the girls!

Watching the girls!

My son and I were most interested in what makes a muchacho or muchacha (young fellow or lady) attractive and the subsequent “hooking up” stage. We began by observing the groups of boys. They circled in groups anywhere from 2 to 6 in a group. Each group had its own identity. There seemed to be 3 main styles. There were the pseudo-skaters (pseudo in the sense that they did not carry skateboards) in t-shirts and tight colored jeans with even more colorful shoes. Then there were the vaqueros (cowboys) with their checked shirts, jeans, boots and belt buckles. And finally, there were the bad boy gangsta-wanna-bes with their t-shirts, baggy pants, and sparkly gun/marijuana/skull belt buckles, maybe even an earring or two.

We noticed that girls arrived and made the circuit in groups of two, sometimes three. Some girl packs came with their little ones wrapped in rebozos. (See Babywearing in Mexico). Others had toddlers that trailed behind. Some came with their mothers or grandmothers. A few came alone and met up with friends as they circled. All the young ladies were dressed to the hilt.

The main objective is to get the attention of the opposite sex, whether through ostentatious dress or eye contact. Some efforts to get the girls’ attentions were complete and utter failures. Hooting and hollering made the girls speed up or take a sudden left turn into oblivion. Although most already were acquainted, sometimes we witnessed formal presentations by an intermediate after liberal eyeballing from both parties. These introductions allowed the formerly group of 2 to become 3 and the circuit walk continued.

A "couple" walk in Cerano consists of the man walking slightly behind his woman with his hand on her shoulder.

A “couple” walk in Cerano consists of the man walking slightly behind his woman with his hand on her shoulder.

The commitment level of the relationship was easy to read. Single males were still in their wolf packs. The newly hooked up circled in groups of 2 or three (the potential couple and chaperone female friend). Those in the official couplehood stage walked in the customary Cerano way–the female was slightly ahead of the male who had his hand on her shoulder “guiding” her along.

Young couples with babies have a modified couple walk. The woman holds the hands of toddlers, and more often than not, the male carries the infants. This allows the woman to have her hands free for shopping, after all, they were at the tianguis (flea market) and certain things need to be bought. Women with children who had no man, perhaps he was in el norte (the US) or the relationship had ended, carried their own children and were often with another female friend in the same position, or more rarely with their mothers. These women, or young ladies, were either “single” or “in a relationship” which could be determined by how much skin was exposed. The committed had far less tata display than the single ladies.

A gathering of married men in el jardin in Cerano.

A gathering of married men in el jardin in Cerano.

Men married for an extended period of time arrived as lone wolves, meeting up in the jardin (central park) with other lone wolves after making the circuit and seeing what there was to see. Women of the same age also arrived alone but didn’t typically linger after making necessary purchases.

Everything you could possible need is on sale in Cerano on Sundays.

Everything you could possibly need is on sale in Cerano on Sundays.

What an educational day! In the early afternoon, we called it quits, gathered up what remained of our crap for sale and headed home.




Filed under Cultural Challenges, Mexican Cultural Stories