Blog # 17: Our Life in Zirahuen

February 27, 2011

Linda’s back in Mexico and the sun is shining. All is right with the world, or at least this little corner of the world.

There is a routine to our lives here. I get up with the first light (or the first dogs, roosters) somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30. I layer up (three layers now, down from four in January), slip on my Keenes, and walk three hundred meters down the hill to buy the day’s Zirahuén bread (to supplement what I’ve baked or the twice-a-month loaf of multi-grain from the Aurrera in Pátzcuaro. The bread seller, a woman maybe in her 60s, has brought a hatful of fresh rolls in four or five shapes (some of which vary from day to day) to the corner where our dirt road intersects the adoquinado, in front of the abarrotes, the nearest neighborhood grocery store.

From the back of the store she takes out her equipment. She unfolds her table, places her basket-hat on it and drapes a cloth over the bread to keep off the flies. She sets up her brazier, stokes it with firewood, puts a couple of kettles on, and arrays her packets of tea (herbal, black, and chamomile), Nestlé’s cappuccino envelopes, jar of instant coffee, plastic bags and Styrofoam cups. Thus established, she dispenses breakfast and our daily bread to passing workmen in their trucks, on their horses and donkeys, pushing their firewood dollies or wheelbarrows; housewives loading up for the kids’ breakfasts; and kids heading off to the early shift at school on foot or on their bikes. If the odd bearded gringo doesn’t get there by 6:45, she is usually sold out and he has to do without or walk toward the other end of town looking for one of our bread lady’s colleagues who might still have a little merchandise left to sell. For everyone involved, this is a seemingly cherished daily ritual. Except Sundays, of course, which the bread ladies take off while the odd bearded gringo makes his wife a batch of pancakes.


Back home, I pour myself a glass of guava or mango juice, chug my morning handful of pills, squeeze some fresh orange juice for Linda, and make coffee, mixing Coatepec coffee from the Aurrera with Chiapas custom ground coffee from the shop under the arcade on the Plaza Grande in Pátzcuaro. While it brews I get my daily dose of reality from NPR streamed on my computer. That is, I listen on days when the wifi signal is strong enough to support streaming, about four days in seven. Otherwise, its bird songs and dogs and wisps of radio from down the hill. These days the news is mostly Middle Eastern governments tottering and Wisconsin senators on the lam. The occasional story about Mexico usually points up drug-related violence. Here in Zirahuén, and everyplace else we’ve visited, life is on the whole appears to be so tranquil that awareness of the background struggle rarely intrudes. When it does, it tends to be from the lurid headlines and photos on the front page of the sensationalist press that is hawked on every street corner in the cities; or the pickup trucks with heavily-armed federal policemen or black-hooded narco police speeding past on the highway; or the billboard-sized wanted posters along the highways offering millions for information helping to capture some set of narcolords, signs that are almost always defaced, presumably by employees or supporters of same.


News or no news,

we breakfast and retire to our separate “offices” (Linda in the living room; me in the second bedroom) to write. We break mid-morning for our “elevenses,” which usually involve both caffeine and jam. By then we have removed a layer or two of clothing. From time to time I break for a spot of guitar practice. At two we stop for lunch. In the afternoon I often hike while Linda reads or knits scarves, shawls, felted market bags, and in one notable case, a garage for Abby’s car.

And so on through the waning afternoon, a light dinner of yoghurt and fruit, a quiet evening by the fire, and an early bedtime. What a couple of old fogies!


But —if you are still awake after reading this—, you’ll be comforted to know that our routines are often interrupted by “events,” many of them self imposed. The Monday night movie in Pátzcuaro. The occasional day trip or overnight to someplace nearby and fascinating. Once or twice a week catching up on kindergarten gossip while I’m picking up garbage around the neighborhood with Mari Cruz and Karen, the five-year-olds who live across the street behind us. Parties with friends here or in Pátzcuaro. The occasional forest fire u

p the mountain. Watching the young gardener, part of the work crew whom our landlady Lily supports with her tasks and projects, cut our lawn with a hand clippers.

Newly-born goats and calves just up the street, or newly-hatched chickens in just about every neighbor’s yard. An imprompteau rodeo at the far edge of town.  A quinceañera party down at the embarcadero. Watching our really mediocre local futbol team trounce a much worse neighboring team on Sunday afternoon and retrieving for them every missed shot that bounces into the thickets behind the goal while I’m trying to take pictures. 



And —best of all— periodic visits from out-of-towners with whom we can declare a moratorium on packing laptops with prose while we join our friends in exploring some of Michoacán’s extraordinary places: the yácatas at Tzintzuntzan, the copper artisans in Santa Clara, the volcano at Angahuan, lake Pátzcuaro, and the colonial splendors of Morelia. Eating out ain’t so bad either. Steve and Jenny Raulston from Tennessee are coming in ten days, and we can hardly wait! They’ll be the last for this year, because we’ll be heading north soon after they leave.

Well, if you missed your chance this year, start thinking about 2012.


David & Linda