Tag Archives: living in rural Mexico

A Day in the Life in rural Mexico State

Daisy shares a day in the life in a small town in the state of Mexico.

What is my typical day like? Well, it starts off pretty early in the morning, as I regularly get up around 4:30 am to teach Chinese students online. There are a million companies out there, some needing a degree, some not, but most paying between 15 and 25 dollars an hour. I am lucky enough (or unluckily enough, since those student loan payments are still a burden) to have a BA, but in addition, I got my TEFL off of Groupon for 39 dollars. I haven’t had it turned down once since most companies just want to be able to tell students (and their parents) that the teachers have a piece of paper.

But wait! What about me? Well, I have been living in rural Estado de Mexico–central highlands, altitude 8000 feet where I often wear sweaters in my house even in summer-close to Mexico City but quite countrified–for the last 8 years. My husband is Mexican and my two children (8 and 3) were born here. I never had a plan to move to Mexico but once life circumstances put me here, it was like I was made for it!

Compared to the families around me (a good proportion of whom I am related to by marriage) you might say my husband and I are a bit unconventional. I work from home, online teaching and WordPress support, while he is in charge of the kids. Since schools have a nasty habit of informing the parents the day before of some vital meeting or big project due, it’s nice to have someone not working. Plus, he made such a small amount of money for the long hours he worked, I worked really hard to convince him to leave his job and just do side projects when he was bored. It’s not always easy on his self-esteem since it he is the only stay at home dad most people have seen before, and it goes against the strictly defined gender roles of the area, but it works for us.

Working online has enabled me to really add to our creature comforts. There is nothing like the satisfaction of a hot shower, after taking bucket baths for several years. I used a contraption like this to heat our water; basically, electric coils wrapped around a block of wood. It is the same concept used to heat up water in an electric kettle, but it was a shock when I first saw it. It’s totally safe, you just have to remember to NEVER test the water by touching it!

As I mentioned, I get up early, work a few hours with the Chinese schools, then do some hours with another online ESL company that has daytime hours.. I try to not work from 12 to 3, since that is the main meal time in Mexico. I cook while he goes and picks up the kids. Then after we eat our main meal, I go back to work while he helps with homework and coaches his soccer teams. We don’t eat any processed foods, and I buy all our vegetables, meat, and fruit and local mercados (markets) or shops, not in the grocery store. It just seems fresher to me, and I like buying from the exact same person I have been buying from for the last 8 years, and knowing I am supporting that individual instead of a corporation.

If it is the weekend, you might catch us at a party that we can fully enjoy, knowing we helped pay for it. Cooperation is still alive and functioning in my area, where there is a great big circle of party love going around and around. I am proud to be asked to be the madrina (godmother) of the bouncy gym, tents, etc since these same people did the same for me when I had my daughter’s tres años presentation (3-year-old presentation). I only paid for the food!–which was still a lot, considering it was for 300 people! I know that some people have not had good luck with this sort of setup, but it works very well where I live–and I really think it strengthens the ties that bind the community together. When it works, it is a great deal–entertainment for the whole family, food, and drinks, for about 1500 pesos–the same amount you might spend at a semi fancy restaurant. I still consider myself lucky I landed in an area where people dance cumbia instead of grupero or norteño.

I often rage on expat pages because of their ignorance of how difficult life is for average Mexicans. I think that they have a Pollyannish attitude about corruption and crime, such as murders and kidnappings that can fall heavily on rural areas, but which don’t usually affect expats living in tourist areas.  Even though I am lucky enough not to live in a narco area, my house has been broken into several times here, and we have a big problem with assaults on buses. If you are a woman in an abusive relationship….good luck. I have seen several cases where the police refused to file charges, even with physical evidence of abuse. I think the issue is the impunity. Hardly any crimes are solved here, and people don’t feel they can rely on the police to help them. That is the big difference to me.  I think what happens with the Pollyanna folks that if you have everyone asking you constantly why you would go to such a dangerous place, you want to defend Mexico’s honor but if you are here, you want to defend the people who are suffering and not getting help from their government. Having said all that though, I feel quite safe and  I love that my children can play outside in a great big mob of 20 cousins with no supervision; I love that they can explore their independence by walking to the store alone (well, with 5 cousins in tow). Yes, we have tablets and TV, but the majority of their time is spent outside playing, which lines up perfectly with my beliefs about how to raise emotionally resilient and communicative children.

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The Return of the Zombies

To add to the desolate wasteland landscape currently found in La Yacata because of the scorched earth from clearing burns, someone dumped a dead donkey near the house. Being curious, my husband decided to check it out.  According to his forensic examination, the donkey showed signs of having been hit by a car. While he’s not positive, he thinks it might have been the same donkey that was plowing the area where we sometimes sharecrop. His report included the fact that the guys plowing got progressively drunker during the course of the day while plowing so it wouldn’t have been too hard for an improperly tied donkey to wander out into the road.

I’ve already mentioned that the road past La Yacata has become quite deadly.  It’s almost as if there is a game of points going on–10 points for the old guy on his bicycle, 20 for the guy on the donkey, 15 points for loose livestock, etc. Since my last update, there have been 3 more fatalities (not including this donkey).  One guy, heading to La Yacata to work with the borrega guy, was hit by a truck and dismembered. The guy driving the truck tried to bribe his way out of being held accountable, but the witnesses wouldn’t let him go until the police arrived and arrested him. Doesn’t change the fact that a man is dead though.

Anyway, back to the dead donkey.  It wasn’t there 12 hours before large wild dogs and coyotes found the carcass.  Every night, the two factions snarled and barked and yipped over their meal. Puppy was terrified.  Nary a sound did he make in response, which isn’t like him at all. Even on our daily walks, he didn’t linger but stayed right next to me, especially as we passed the inflated corpse.

Sure enough, all this commotion attracted the attention of zombies. Segue creepy music….The zombie babies have returned. Remember how the three zombie babies were sent to live with the neighbor who had a cow that could provide them with milk since our goats and sheep weren’t able to keep up with their voracious appetites?  Well, the neighbor decided it was high time they started foraging for themselves and brought them to the barn that borders our property. My husband saw them and negotiated for one of the zombie girls. She came back to live with us during some video filming and caused me some anxious moments. Puppy wasn’t happy at all.  It seems that zombie girl thinks she’s a pet and just won’t stay in the animal area. Twice now, she’s tried to eat Puppy’s food and he’s bitten her nose. My husband was furious but I pointed out that it was only natural that Puppy would defend his food dish from zombie invasion.

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A bit bigger, much healthier, but still UGLY!

The next to return was zombie boy.  He and Oreo bump heads for the honor of being head sheep boy, but I’m pretty sure Oreo is going to come out on top in the end.  The third of the zombie trio didn’t return, but I’m fine with just two zombies. 

 

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La Yacata Revolution

If you’ve been following me since the beginning, like my mom, my BFF, and my brother, well then you already know the story of how we came to be where we are.  But if not, you might be wondering why we live in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, sewer or water. Here’s the thing, we didn’t intend to live this sort of life.  It’s just how it all turned out. So we do what we can with what we have.

La Yacata may not seem like much during the dry season.  It’s bleak. I mean really bleak. Over the years, I have learned that its very barrenness sets the stage for the awe that is overwhelming in the rainy season. Like yin and yang.

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It has inspired in me a passionate possessiveness that makes me understand why people would defend their land with their lives and yet I know that I don’t own La Yacata, rather it owns me.

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There is a steadfastness, a timelessness.  These stones have stood here for countless generations. I am grounded. I am given a whole new perspective. I am set free.

 

Well, that’s enough of all that new-age hippie silliness. If you are still curious and how we came to be where we are, you can search through the early posts and peel back the layers of the story or you can pick up the compiled e-book version, La Yacata Revolution: How NOT to Buy a Piece of Heaven in Mexico, which is FREE for the next few days. It’s up to you.

la yacata revolution cover

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Less than Satisfied with Community Spirit

The other day a lady came to the door about some lots in La Yacata.  Even though I’ve retired from active service, I still find myself called upon to advise.  Her sons looked surprisingly familiar.  In fact, they looked quite a bit like my nephew L.  Turns out, they are related.

My husband’s sister M. took up with DZ, brother of the woman at the door.  She had 3 children with him, although not his wife.  They met in Cerano and when DZ migrated to Nebraska, she followed him, leaving the wife and her children in Cerano.  My husband’s sister L. took up with LZ, brother of DZ and the woman at the door, although she was married with 2 children at the time.  Her third son L is the result of that liaison and he’s the spitting image of the boys at the door. So then L married her second husband and had another son but took up with the LZ and DZ’s sister’s husband C for a time.  She also managed to get the father MZ of LZ, DZ and the woman at the door, to sell her the lot on the corner in La Yacata. The property certificate was issued to her second husband’s mother, only it turns out that L was never legally married to the second husband since they married while she was still married to the first husband.  When second husband and L had a falling out, she kept the certificate.  Recently, the second husband has been coming around to try and sell the lot or give it in exchange for some money he owes–only he doesn’t have the certificate.  He tried to accuse me of making another certificate in L’s name, but I haven’t.  She’s never asked me to. I expect because L knows I wouldn’t authorize it without second husband’s mother’s signature.

Family issues aside–Ma.Z, the woman at the door proceeded to tell me her story of woe.  Her father MZ bought several lots in La Yacata and partitioned them off amongst his children.  She and her two sisters had lots just above us. Only RZ, one of the sisters and the wife of C, had taken all the original ownership certificates.  Most of the certificates had been returned to the dad MZ–all except for Lot #9.  And it was this lot that Ma.Z wanted to sell.  

I showed her the property registry.  Apparently, she had already sung this song to Super Prez because there was a notation to the effect that in the event someone comes forward with this certificate, the owner is Ma.Z.  I told her there wasn’t anything more I could do but gave her some free advice.  She could do one of two things–go to Ministerio Publico and have a demanda (lawsuit) drawn up against her sister RZ or offer to go miches (split the profit) on the selling price in an attempt to get RZ to agree to the sale.  She left rather less than satisfied.

Then I had another visitor.  This guy was an older gentleman and self-proclaimed corredor (which is someone who tries to sell lots to earn a small commission).  So he had this certificate that was made by Chuchi in an area that didn’t exist.  I told him this.  I also told him the certificate that he had in his hand was a copy, not the original.  He wanted me to give him another lot in exchange.  I said I couldn’t since every lot had an owner (or 2 or 3).  He then went on and on about how he knew the original owners and Chuchi.  I said he should talk to them then.  The president of the association is the son of the original owner.  Chuchi has lost his house due to shady deals and as far as I know, has several open demandas (lawsuit) against him. Furthermore, the person listed on the certificate knew that his certificate was invalid because I had talked to him about 2 years ago.  He could go to Ministerio Publico and have a demanda (lawsuit) drawn up against any of them.  He left rather less than satisfied.

And then there were the golden van people who have come several times.  First, the elderly lady wanted to know where her lots were.  I showed her in the community plan.  Then she wanted someone to clear them off.  I said my husband would clear and mark the boundaries of her lots but there was a fee for that.  They went away but came back a few weeks later saying that they had come several times looking for me.  I told them that I worked and wasn’t always at home.  She wanted to know when we were going to have a community meeting and start the next project.  At the last meeting, so long ago, we presented the costs for water, sewage, pavement, and electricity to the community.  Sewage would be the cheapest to obtain at $6,000 per lot.  She wanted to know when we would begin collecting for that.  I said that we could not begin another project until we paid for the lawyer and that cost was only $250 pesos per lot.  If the community couldn’t be bothered to pay that, why on earth would we start a new project?

Meanwhile, the kids in the van got out.  Puppy was laying in the shade under the truck. I told the people that he does bark, but won’t bite.  Puppy was already cranky because the horse guy’s horses were wandering around loose and encroaching on his territory.  The boy had a slingshot and the girl picked something that was in Puppy’s area, probably a rock.  So he went ballistic.  He charged the girl and growled at her.  I stepped between Puppy and the girl and called him off.  She hadn’t been bitten, just scared.  But then, the dad, who had been standing there the entire time, picked up a boulder and tried to bash Puppy’s head in.  I called him a name or two (in English because in times of high emotion my Spanish fails me) and told him to leave and not to return.  I also yelled at the old lady and told her to sell her lots and be done with it.  Perhaps not my finest moment.  They left less than satisfied.

While I’m on the topic of La Yacata–we’ve been the subject of quite a bit of negative gossip.  Apparently, someone said that my husband started the brush fire that burned the posts of the cholo borrachos’ (drunk cholos) lot. Of course, that isn’t true.  It’s actually quite inconvenient that someone set the fire since now there’s nothing left for our sheep/goat herd/flock to eat. Plus it spawned a smoldering fire in the pig poop which takes weeks to burn itself out and smells! Then someone else said that my husband had broken into their place and stolen stuff.  Again, this isn’t true.  He does tend to pick up things like old pots and discarded candlesticks when he’s out with the goats which he sells for fierro viejo (recycling) but never goes into a house to steal anything.  In fact, his presence is often a theft deterrent.  The other day we were out with the animals and a suspicious van came along.  The driver saw us and decided to go someplace else.  Who knows what sort of funny business it had in mind?

Anyway, my husband is quite put out about all the chisme (gossip).  I tried to tell him that it didn’t matter because he knew it wasn’t true and I knew it wasn’t true. He said that the neighbors threatened a demanda (lawsuit) against him.  Initially, I scoffed at that because he hadn’t done anything so what is there to sue over?  However, we are in Mexico and it’s guilty until proven innocent and how do you prove something that you haven’t done? Remember all those demandas I had to testify at (See Demanda 1, Demanda 2, Demanda 3)-all of them were bogus, but cost an arm and a leg to get it resolved. So perhaps I should be more concerned.  

I’m also concerned that the golden van people will come back and poison Puppy.  We’ve had a rash of mysterious chicken deaths this week.  They could have been poisoned.  It wouldn’t take much effort to lob some veneno (poison) over the walls into the backyard. There’s no conclusive proof though so I won’t be heading to Ministerio Publico to have a demanda (lawsuit) drawn up.  It leaves me less than satisfied.

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