Its Friday. Yesterday we spent the day out of the village doing a whole list of things that revolved around picking up my artifacts from Kam at his hacienda. In the morning we went to Chichen Itza before the bus tours arrived, then to the cave at Balancanche. Its hard to tire these boys out…as long as they get to eat frequently and abundantly, they are good to go and go and go. So we headed up to see the hacienda and swim in the cenote…Kam has a small army working on restoring the main house, school house and other buildings. His wife Emily’s drive is over-whelming. She is restoring an 18th century shaker style house in Kent, Ohio where they live _and_ this 19th century hacienda…obviously money is no issue. There are moments when I’m sitting on his beautiful zapote wood dock, looking at the cenote while I wait for his staff to finish cooking lunch for all of us that I think about how to make this collaboration work. But then when his architect from DF, who has been at the hacienda for 7 weeks and worked in the field with Kam for 4 months last spring, asks me if I have a research program going now…me…when we are a stone’s throw from my site…that I realize its not going to work. He isn’t co-director material. He wants it all.
But back to today. I love the days we spend all day in the village and never leave. As long as we have groceries this works, as there simply aren’t some of the things we are used to, or they are so expensive here. Like paper napkins. We don’t need them, but they are damn useful. And not sold here. Or mustard. But the days here have a beautiful pace, where things sort of unfold. They happen or they don’t, there is no trying to fit one more thing into the schedule. This morning I had to go look for the electrician, who lives in the next town over. He is a couple days late to stop by and finish the work we paid him for. This is normal. He is the only electrician for these two towns. So when you need an electrician, you go look for him. He is either at home or not. And he either comes along or not. If not, you try agan another day. I don’t know if this is radically different than my rhythm at home but it feels so very straightforward. Lots of simple goals that are either accomplished or not. After looking for the electrician, I bought clothes line at one little tienda in the village, and bread at another. I went to look for the Comisario, who was not at home. I walked around asking people if they wanted their houses painted green, and got some takers, then visited my friend Deysi on the edge of town. Deysi and her husband Valentin are some of my best friends here, I met Deysi when I was 22 and she was 16, we bonded over hairbrushes and French braids, and have been good friends ever since. She and Valentin were carving wood idolos to sell to vendors who sell them to tourists in Piste (the town next door to Chichen Itza). Its what everyone here does in their free time to make a bit more $.
The boys went to work scrapping off the old paint from a tendejon on the main plaza which the owner would like to have painted green. Don Jose Canul came out to visit, he looks about 75, which is really old here, and told me the tendejobn is no longer a store since he doenst have cash to buy stock. He dosent have cash because he wife got sick and spent a year in the hospital before she died in February. He liked the idea of painting the storefront for a change. I told the boys this story mid-morning when they were getting really hot and sweaty and they nearly cried. I cannot tell you how precious and sweet and boy-like these 17 year olds are. I was a bit of an asshole when I was 17, thought only of myself and getting laid. The boys are soothing my spirit with their kindness. So the scrapping took all morning, until almost 1pm, with one short break for cold cokes. We ate lunch at the campamento and then they painted the doors of a house up the street. Turns out it is te house of a man who was one of our foremen on the archaeological project, Don Benigno or Don Be, who has always been this Yoda-like little dude full of wisdom. Everyone who sees me, even after all these years of just passing through for a few hours or so, wants to talk and reminisce and share in that open way that blows me away about Yaxuna.
So part of the IB requirement that students do a community service project must be for them to get out of their own head, out of their own routine and serve others…I imagine I could find language something like that if I looked on the internet. And I am all down with that, and these 6 boys are walking their talk. But today I protected them from some of the reality of this place—they are grappling with the lack of indoor bathrooms at most houses, the lack of stuff in general, the poverty. They notice friendly people and very dirty streets. I didn’t want them to know about the guy who asked me for work so he could buy shoes for his three kids so they can stay enrolled in primary school, or that our cook is in debt to 4 different predatory banks and may be arrested if she cant make a payment to them, or to see the emaciated puppy dead in the road with its guts hanging out that no one seems to notice. These things, all symptoms of the grinding poverty of rural Mexico/Latin America/the world make me mad. It makes me mad that the political candidates are telling these campesinos to vote for them because the current party in power has forgotten them and things will go back to the way they were if the PRI wins. It makes me mad that politicians are trying to scare people here from voting by telling them there may be armed gangs around on election day. This is the kind of rumor that would not get traction in the US, and in most parts of Mexico people would laugh, but the rural indigenous are victimized so often, that just about any fucking craziness you can imagine has happened and could happen again. It just really sunk in on this trip that in addition to all the other horrendous things that have happened to the Maya of Yucatan, in the mid 19th century the governor of Yucatan (a Barbachano, good to know) sold Maya women, children and men to Cuban sugar plantations. Sold. As in slavery, which was illegal in Mexico after the revolution. And this didn’t stop until the beginning of the 20th century. The 20th century people! How I didn’t know this before is embarrassing—I know I have read about this as the context for the Guerra de Castes, but it didn’t sink in. Too much sorrow. And yet this village still welcomes our goofy asses down here to paint houses and do archeology and buy hand crafts and swim in their cenote. This astounds me. Course they aren’t as welcoming to Mexicans as they are to gringos.
But these sweet, sweet boys can learn some of these things later, maybe when they are in college and older, more cynical, more critical. They are already critical thinkers, but they don’t know the sadness of a life lived in poverty for generations. They are seeing the edges of it, like I did when I first came here so long ago. And despite the social scientist in me, I cant turn off the mom that says that’s probably enough.