Tomorrow I’ll start the last part of my journey in Mexico. I’m going to Hidalgo – a state that is about 2 hours from where I am – Puebla. I’m going to visit the family that inspired me to pursue this research here in Mexico.
In New York when I started my PhD research I met Sonia. She is my neighbor’s babysitter. My research has focused on mothers that leave their children behind in Mexico to go work in NY. Sonia left her son Aldo with her mother 8 years ago. So now I’ll go meet her son and her mother. I’m bringing with me pictures and other gifts that Sonia sent. But most importantly she left me in charge of giving her son a big hug. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to meet her family here in Mexico. When I spoke to her mother – Cleme – on the phone she was too. She told me that was so excited to meet someone that knows her girls and that can tell her how her girls are doing in NY. I say girls because Sonia’s sisters Rosa and Gloria are also in the US and I have met them several times.
Her mom – Cleme – is very excited to have me over. She has told me she will bring a huge sign with my name on it. She told me about people that I’m going to meet and the stuff she is going to cook. I will be back on Sunday so I will make sure to write about how this experience went. I won’t have signal, I don’t think, since I can’t even find this village on the map.
Amanha vou para outro estado do Mexico que se chama Hidalgo. Sao 2.5 horas de onibus da onde eu estou (Puebla). Estou muito muito empolgada para fazer essa ultima parte da minha pesquisa e estada aqui no Mexico.
Em NY eu comecei a minha pesquisa com maes mexicanas que deixam seus filhos aqui no Mexico e vao para NY. Uma das mulheres que eu conheci foi a Sonia. A Sonia eh baba da bebe de uma vizinha minha. A Sonia deixou o filho em Hidalgo faz 8 anos. Faz 8 anos que eles nao se veem. O filho dela Aldo ficou com a avo Clemencia. Amanha eu vou para a casa da Dona Clemencia, conhecer o filho da Sonia – Aldo. EU levo fotos e presentes que a Sonia mandou e o principal que ela me pediu – um abraco grande. A mae da Sonia esta tao empolgada que eu vou que vai me buscar na rodoviaria com um cartaz com o meu nome. Ja me falou todo o menu que vai cozinhar ( e eu como ex-vegetariana, estou apavorada) as pessoas que vou conhecer. No telefone ela me falou varias vezes – “fico muito feliz em conhecer uma amiga das minhas familias, alguem que me diga como elas estao”. Eu me senti honrada em representar de uma maneira as filhas da D. Cleme. Eu digo as filhas porque tambem fiquei proxima de Rosa e Gloria tambem imigrantes nos Estados Unidos.
Eu nao sei como vai ser o sinal em San Nicolas del Xate – uma cidade que eu nem encontrei no mapa! Entao nao sei se vou escrever ate domingo. Mas garanto que no domingo eu conto tudo o que aconteceu.
Quando o Mexico perdeu para a Argentina os mexicanos nao ficaram tristes. Juro. Eles ja estavam esperando, os torcedores entraram derrotados. E depois que o Mexico perdeu os comentarios que eu escutei eram coisas assim:
“o pais esta destruido, as pessoas mais pobres que nunca e esse governo gasta todo esse dinheiro com esses idiotas” ou outras coisas como “eu odeio essas propagandas que unificam os mexicanos atraves do futebol, quem eles acham que sao para manipular as pessoas”
Muita gente criticou Felipe Calderon por ir ao jogo inaugural do Mexico contra a Africa do Sul. O presidente em entrevista alegou que ia para uma reuniao quinta a noite e que aproveitaria para ver o jogo. AS pessoas aqui se revoltaram, chamando o presidente de mentiroso.
Ontem quando eu estava vendo o jogo do Brasil e sofrendo e gritando os mexicanos ficavam sempre impressionados com a minha emocao. Apos o jogo comecou um papo sobre quanto de dinheiro eh gasto em uma copa do mundo. Quanto ganham jogadores, tecnicos, arbritos. Quanto gasta o governo que esta hospedando a copa. Os mexicanos estavam indignados com o quanto o tecnico da selecao mexicana ganha. Algo como 1.8 milhoes de euros. Outra vez comecou a discussao de como o desempenho da equipe eh inversamente proporcional a quanto eles sao pagos. Na partida contra a Argentina o jogador Bofo entrou. O comentario generalizado era que por causa de um patrocinador que pressionou a selecao – o tecnico o colocou. Esses comentarios vem de todas as camadas sociais do pais. Eu falei com pessoas que trabalham no campo, na cidade, motoristas de onibus, estudantes, intelectuais, politicos… TODOS.
A minha reflexao foi que desde que sou pequena nunca pensei em quanto ganham os jogadores quando jogam na selecao. Nunca me incomodou. Nunca pensei em quanto os tecnicos ganham, se haviam questoes politicas para escalar um jogador ou outro. Eu sempre gostei e me emocionei com propagandas que dizem que somos todos brasileiros juntos na torcida. E isso tudo porque a qualidade do futebol brasileiro sempre entegou os resultados. Sempre me deixou feliz. (eu lembro de copas desde 1994, entao ganhamos metade das vezes 🙂 Foi dificil para mim entender essa raiva que os mexicanos expressavam com o futebol. Mais parecia uma raiva defensiva. Como se eles quisessem ganhar, mas no fundo sabiam que era dificil, por isso nao deixavam as expectativas aumentarem. 20 mil mexicanos foram a Africa do Sul. Uma das maiores torcidas. E o comentario aqui eh: “devem ser os filhos dos narco-traficantes”.
In Spanish peinar means to “comb your hair”. But “La Peina” is more than that, so much more. It is a tradition that dates from before the Spanish ever set foot in Mexico. La Peina is a party that happens one day before a wedding. It happens at the bride’s house, because the wedding happens at the groom’s house. Traditionally La peina was moment where older women would give advice to the one getting married, comb her hair and dress her for when she sees the groom. In addition to that it is a moment where the groom and his family give the bride’s family “oferendas” or gifts to prove his commitment and love. The gifts include: bread, soda, the wedding dress, flowers for decoration, beans, meat and a giant bird “El Guajolote” (turkey).
I went to a “peina” las weekend and it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been. I went to this house in a village of about 400 people. The house was tiny, but the outside space was huge. The ground was made of dirt and there were sheep, goat, chickens, cows, dogs everywhere. No bathrooms. They had a DJ, huge speakers, a disco globe, tables everywhere and a service that no 1 million dollar-weeding could ever have!
As we arrive at the party the mother of the bride came to salute us, welcome us. We set at one the tables and in 30 seconds the food was served to us. Beans, rice, and mole. Mole is a very traditional dish in Puebla. It is chicken with a sauce made of spices and chocolate. They also bring tamales (a starchy dough, often corn-based, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies, sweet cream or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.) these ones were made of beans and they were flat! Perfect to eat with Mole, just like a tortilla. After one hour or so the bride and groom arrived. They arrived with their “padrinos” or the people that are contributing to pay for things in the party. Examples – padrino of decoration, padrino of sodas, padrinos of chairs, padrinos of tortillas, padrinos of music. So as this group arrive the start dancing in a circle all holding things that represent what they are contributing with.
Of course the family of the groom invited me to join the dance and hold a basket of bread while dancing in a circle. For half an hour the same song plays over and over as we all dance together with the bride and groom displaying our gifts. After the dance is over the padrinos form a a line to deliver the gifts to the mother and father of the bride. This part is inside the house. I nearly melted with the heat and the amount of people squeezed in the tiny house. When you deliver the gift the mother of the bride says a blessing and we leave the space.
Because over 300 people come to the party, when you are done eating you need to get up and dance so other people that were dancing can eat. Again, the members of the family that help out in the organization of the weeding provide the quickest service I have ever seen. They clean the table, put fresh tortillas, tamales, beans, rice and everything else you want. They always ask you – is there anything else you would like? Then the father of the bride comes to offer you tequila. You got to take it. For dessert – a flan.
Then the party goes until 5 in the morning (it started at 8pm). Tones of dancing – people usually like bachata and banda. They don’t like salsa.
You can eat again, and again and again. Then the next day at 1pm the wedding celebration at a church happens.
Esse mes inteiro aqui no Mexico a coisa que eu mais fiz foi esperar.
Eu nao conheco bem o Mexico nem sou mexicana. Essas sao desvantagens imediatas quando alguem esta tentando fazer trabalho aqui. Eu dependo 100% das pessoas que me hospedam. Dependo deles para me locomover, dependo deles para fazer planos, dependo deles para conhecer gente. Eu digo dependo, pois aqui no Mexico agora e epoca de eleicoes, censo e futebol. As pessoas de povoados menores sao desconfiadas dos que chegam de fora, entao leva tempo para ganhar a confianca. Por isso eu dependo dos meus contatos para me ajudarem.
A questao e que todos nos temos nossas vidas e estas pessoas tambem. Elas nao vivem em minha funcao nem podem parar tudo para que eu consiga fazer minha pesquisa. Entao eu espero. Eu espero ligacoes, eu espero emails, eu espero carona, eu espero a escola abrir, eu espero as pessoas se desocuparem, eu espero atrasos (atrasos mexicanos sao comuns e longos), eu espero as pessoas sairem do banho, eu espero as pessoas usarem o computador, o telefone, o banheiro. Eu espero as criancas sairem da escola, eu volto a esperar carona. Eu espero o onibus, eu espero o taxi, eu espero abrirem a porta. Eu espero a internet conectar. Eu espero do lado de fora, do lado de dentro, na chuva ou no calorao. Eu espero na rua, no ponto de onibus, no restaurante, em casa, no telefone. Eu espero a dor de barriga passar, eu espero que nao me sirvam porco, eu espero que os mosquitos parem de picar. Eu sempre me pego esperando. Sou minha propria cia.
Eu tambem espero que o meu trabalho aqui renda frutos.
The more I do research the more I get confused with my role as a worker. I think that through anthropology I can do development work and through development work I can inform public policy. I just don’t know if that’s possible.
Yesterday I accompanied a “Diputada” from Puebla as she was out campaigning for her party – PAN (Partido Accion Nacional). Even with all my concerns about politicians in Mexico I decided to be open and meet the people in these pueblos we were going to go. We ended up in Santa Lucia. A tiny village. The population depends on rain (not too much, not too little) to make any money since they plant corn. It has been a year that it hasn’t rain, therefore hunger and unemployment have risen dramatically.
As a politician I would have loved to have the “power” that this Diputada has. Legislate, allocate money, solve problems. We went to a family’s house – about 14 people living in a house that had no doors, only sheets hanging from the ceiling and mattresses on the floor. Basically older women and kids. (Let’s not forget about the 6 dogs that each family here keeps). Here is the situation: the father of (let’s call him) Temo lives in the US. He has been there for 8 years. Temo is 7. His dad left when he was 1 year-old. The dad sent money to Temo’s mom for the first two years. Then he forgot about his child. He stopped calling and sending money. Temo’s mother got engaged in January of this year and just had a baby with her husband to be 2 weeks ago. As we gather in this house the grandmother of Temo is in panic. She is holding a piece of paper and gives it to the Diputada and to her lawyer assistant. The paper says that the family was sued in January (when the mother got engaged) by Temo’s father. The father was asking for his mother (Temo’s paternal grandmother) to have full custody of the kid. He argued that Temo wasn’t being taken care of and that the mother would abandon him now that she has a new husband.
Nobody in the house could read. They had no idea this process was happening for the last 6 months. As an anthropologist I could translate and explain, but what else can I do? As a development worker I can help them learn how to read? I can take them to the court and judge? I can explain the rights they have – if I’m familiar with Mexican family law? But as a politician with a lawyer I can go talk to the judge, explain, figure out what is going on and try to give this kid some peace. What bothered me though was the thought of how honest was that action by the Diputada? For me it looked honest. She told me millions of times – we as politicians get paid really well so why not do our jobs really well?
As an anthropologist I asked Temo if he would like to see his grandmother. His answer was – “no, because she left me”. I asked him if he remembered when she left him, and he said “mmmm, no”. It was clear that the message had been repeated to him over and over and the truth is we don’t know how the story really went down. As an anthropologist I was concerned about finding the “truth”. Listening to all sides of the story. The Diputada was concerned about solving the problem, regardless of what happened in the past, and my guess is that the development worker would be from something like the UNICEF and would be concerned with the well-being of the child and his… education?
So, what is it that I need to do? I’ve always been a believer of interdisciplinary studies and actions. To be fair the Diputada wanted to know about my observations. But in the end what can I do? Temo was surrounded by adults discussing his future. Every now and then he would cry a little bit and then wipe his face. His mom didn’t even join the conversation, it was his 88-year-old grandmother that went to seek the help of the Diputada. We later found out that his mom knew the process was going on for months, but decided to ignore it.
I still don’t know about the motives of the father to do all this. But to be honest the mother didn’t seem interested in where her son would live. Stories like this happen all the time around here. Families are completely disintegrated due to immigration and the people that suffer the most are these children. They are absolutely confused.