Long ago, in Mexico, I lived by myself for the first time in my life. All alone, in a traditional Mexican house, which closes firmly to the street, but opens into a courtyard, which ends at a rough stone wall, shared by several neighbourhood houses.
I’d lived in that town for about half a year, working as a teacher. It was literally the answer to a prayer, this job, and I was having the time of my life. I was also scared, a lot. I was a farm girl, raised as an open ‘Half-breed’ in the racist milieu of late 20th century Canada. If Indians were held to be dirty, dangerous and nasty things, Mexicans were fabled to be every bit as bad, or worse. Worse because I hadn’t been anywhere, hadn’t the sophistication to answer those who told me I was going into doom for sure that Mexico, like anywhere, is just full of people.
What I found was an incredibly diverse society, of great wealth and staggering poverty, of class and race divisions that meant that I was, suddenly, mysteriously (to me) White.
I did not know how to be White.
I didn’t know how to move about as a person of privileged status, expecting things. I puzzled the locals, until they got to know me. Until I got to know them, they made me nervous. I was used to being seen as different, but not to being seen as White.
So, imagine me – for reasons that are their own story – suddenly living alone, in a Mexican house on a Mexican street, in a very Mexican little town. Eventually, I got to know my neighbours, who had a tienda, a neighbourhood store, that they ran out of the front of their house. They turned out to be lovely folks, very supportive of my fumbling first efforts to play guitar. Cecilia, the daughter of their house, invited me to join her walking group, and I spent the last couple months I was there walking with her, and a group of neighbourhood ladies, two or three mornings a week. We’d gather at Cecilia’s at the crack of dawn, and amble up into Chula Vista with the sunrise; there, we’d walk around the streets of a much more upscale neighbourhood and wonder how they lived, behind their walls.
But before all that, I met Ram Dass.
(end part one)
The photo here is from Pixabay, courtesy of CrismarPerez, and is not the town where I lived, but very much of the style.