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  • Maira Hernández

El Quehacer y La Visita

Growing up as kids in a Mexican household there is probably one thing we all have in common “El Quehacer”. Most of us have shared experiences of grabbing the broom, the mop, washing the dishes, and scrubbing all the walls every now and again with loud tunes playing in the background. As kids we would always ask why? Why so often? Do we have to? Granted, as kids we probably made a hot mess around the house and someone had to clean it up.


Being here in Mexico is bringing flashbacks of all the chores I had to do as a kid. Only this time my grandma is the one making a hot mess, as she tends to spill food when she eats or tries to cook.This time around, as we do the chores I’m not complaining. My abuela the other day said “Yo tengo animo de trabajar, aunque sea en la casa pero no puedo” describing her eagerness to do work around the house but the restrictions of being in a wheelchair. And I often see my abuelo mopping the patio if he gets to it before I do. I recognized that there is a certain pride in having a clean house, especially here in Mexico. Sadly, I never understood that living on my own as an adult because with the rush of life I never bothered to make the bed unless it was the weekend when I had time. Here, I wake up and do the bed everyday because how is it that my almost 90 year-old abuelos make their bed everyday before leaving their room- I literally have no excuse not to do the same.


What I also recognized was the pride in a clean house is due to the random visitas we get day to day. As kids we always experienced a random tío or tía coming into town without notice and us having to drop everything to clean the house. The complaints we would give, because surely in American culture people rarely show up to your house unannounced, they call ahead or they scheduled a visit. Most of the time I would also stay in my room with the door closed until my parents said “Ven a saludar!”.

Now living here with my abuelos, and recognizing the customs of unannounced visits, I am grateful for them because they mean everything to my abuela who is often lonely in the house when I’m not there, and having a clean house for when people come and visit is why we do chores every day. It’s the pride in presenting your home to those who take time out of their day to come and spend time with you. And thankfully, it seems like every other day we have someone drop by to check on my abuelos or bring them food and I appreciate the sense of community the rancho has to come and look out for each other, especially the elderly. Like my abuela always says,”Que Dios se lo pague”.


Dropping in unannounced for a visit is something that I myself am getting used to. I remember the first time I went to my tia’s house I was clearly overthinking it wondering if it was a good time to go. Should I call ahead? Then realizing this was the rancho and that ain’t nobody got time for that because they invented unannounced visits, off I went! Another time I went to visit my cousin knocking on the door as if knocking on the door was a custom here, it’s not. Here in the rancho you get accustomed to yelling peoples names through the door very loudly so they can hear you and come out, and I had to learn to do the same. You can’t text people “I’m here” and wait for them outside because nobody gets signal out here! So there I went yelling “Primmmmaaaaaaa!” through the door.


Another experience from my childhood that I now gladly partake in is talking on the phone with family I don’t know. I remember as a kid my parents would be talking to a tío or tía that we may or may not have ever met that lived who-knows-where. They would pass us the phone and say “Saluda a tu tía!” as if we knew who they were and what to say. These moments were the worst, and I use to dread them as a kid. This time around I’m the one answering the phone since I can get to it the quickest. Half-the time I don’t even know who’s on the other end and I spend a good time chatting it up with who ever is on the line, my go-to line is “Yo soy la de Gustavo y aquí estoy bien tranquila en el rancho”, identifying who’s child I am and reassuring them I’m enjoying my time in the ranch. An added bonus is that they always tell me a story of the time they met me when I was a kid or when the last time they saw my parents was but also the good wishes they send even when it's been an eternity since their last connection to my family. Through these phone calls I recognized how happy my abuela got when people called and checked in with her, and I made a mental note that I would call her every week once I’m back in the states because she looks forward to these calls everyday. Also I realized that my abuela, as lonely as she might feel, she has a more active social life than I do. I mean it seems like she gets more phone calls in a month compared to the phone calls I get in a year. Which is why when one of my siblings called to ask me to bring back something from Mexico I asked them if they wanted to talk to grandma and they said “I don’t know”- so I just went ahead and passed the phone to my abuela anyways because talking to her grandkids makes her happy, even if the one on the other end of the line feels weird about it. When did I become the one who’s like “Saluda a tu abuela!”?


I now find myself enjoying the quehacer and dropping in and having chats with the señoras and señores from the rancho. I’m slowly but surely learning names and how they’re related to us. Often times I make the connection because they have family in the states that are family friends with my parents. What I’m also realizing is that dropping in and socializing is the biggest form of entertainment here. And how beautiful that is, to actually know your neighbors and everyone in your community- chisme and everything. Cuál Netflix? No need for that here when you’re out actually taking part in life. So if there is one thing to learn from this is call your grandparents if you still got them because you will literally make their day!

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© 2023 by Maira Hernández