Back in the Rancho
The drive from Guadalajara to Michoacán is endearing. The endless greenery and the hills in the horizon with a hint of fog makes you appreciate the vastness of nature and life within it. As we made our way through the pueblos I was reminded of the tranquility I love about the rancho. Ranchers herding their cows through the streets, compadres and comadres sitting outside chismeando. Even the lone señor sitting outside his home watching the passersby.
My abuelo is one of those señores. I remember when Google maps first came out with the street view, I went on a mini adventure through the pueblos since it had been years since I had been in México. Sure enough Google caught him sitting right outside of the front door and today when we arrived we pulled up to him sitting outside as we parked right in front of him, he was happily surprised to see us. My abuela too, as I went inside to the kitchen she greeted me not knowing who I was until I got closer. She said she had wished for someone to visit her today and she was so surprised to see us- my heart was full.
She continued to tell us how she’s been doing and how a couple of days ago she took a big fall and her body still ached. Being confined to a wheelchair is limiting for her, but what I appreciate about my abuela is the strength and will power she still has, she pushes herself to get up and do things on her own to reclaim her independence. In this instance she was trying to get the clothes of the clothes line. But after a fall like that, and my abuelo saying how he couldn’t help her up because of his bad knees and how helpless they were until someone came, I began to realize that me being here can make a difference and make life a little easier for them.
My abuela said that being confined to the house is very sad and that there’s no hope for life anymore, that was heartbreaking for me to hear. My dad chimed in and told them how I planned to stay for a while and that I could help out, I told my abuela she’ll have me to keep her company. This time around me being in Mexico has a different intent, I’m here to learn about the customs that I’ve lost, the family history I don’t know about, and just overall be present in México with a different appreciation above just food and culture.
This started as soon as my tio came in. I was heating up dinner for my dad- frijoles, eggs from the backyard, tortillas and fresh cheese. When my uncle walked in I asked him if he was hungry and if I should heat him up some food. My dad said, “Como que si quiere? Tu sirvele” and that’s when the generational difference clicked. How many times would I go to a tias house and they would tell me to sit down and eat, even if I wasn’t hungry, and even if I tried to decline the offer they would still serve me food. A lot of us first-generation Mexican-Americans look back at this with heartfelt nostalgia of always being taken care of by the women in our families, and here I am asking rather than just doing. Next time I’m just gonna serve for the simple fact of taking care of someone I care about.
The dinner conversation was also a learning experience for me. My uncle was talking about the work he was doing. Depending on the time of the year it’s a different cosecha. He was telling us how he had to make a machine that would help him harvest the lentils and his whole process from planting and leveling out the field to have an even surface when it’s time to harvest. I’ve always known that field work was intense, but I never gave credit for the intricacy and creativity needed for this kind of work, especially when you are doing it on your own. I am proud of the work my tio does.
After dinner my abuela had me go into the bedrooms and she had me shake out all of the blankets to make sure there weren’t any alacranes hiding in between the sheets. Uhh, what?! Apparently it’s scorpion season in Mexico and they like to hide out. I knew living in Mexico was not gonna be luxurious, and I’m realizing every day that passes I’m going to be learning something new about life in the rancho.
As we’re winding down the night my abuelo asks me about my sister and I tell him that she’s now working in San Francisco since she just graduated from college. He told me how for nine years back in the 1960s he would be working as a bracero and would spend time in the Bay Area. He spent time picking in the fields in San Francisco, to San Jose, to Stockton and Sacramento and he mentioned how he remembered the bridge that went over the bay. I was astounded that I didn’t know about this- my abuelo knows about the Yay?! So many stories in our our families’ histories that we don’t know about and all that is required is for us to ask about them while we still can. So as I helped my grandma get ready for bed I started to ask her about all the pictures she has up around the house, most of them are of my cousins but some of the older pictures are interesting to know about. There was one of my dad in his teenage years and all the times I had been here I thought it was one of my uncles, but sure enough as I looked closer I could see the younger version of my dad.
As I sit here writing about my first day I have joyful tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart. I reflect back on the decision to make this move and it is exactly what this day is about. Everyday life in the US has us so wrapped up in routines that we forget about the little things. Often times we’ve been in that routine for so long that we fail to see how far removed we are from our origins. Like the history behind a picture, the culture behind the food, the customs of serving, the genius behind simple jobs and how we often dismiss a simple Mexican farmer, when in reality they are agriculturists, engineers, and business men. This is what my adventure in re-discovering México is all about reconnecting with that orgullo from the motherland.