Sunday, May 14, 2023

Much Love

We both grew up in safe, clean, flourishing neighborhoods in major American cities. Amy in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and me in Northwest Washington DC. People had pride in their homes and surroundings. Elementary, secondary and high schools were all clean, well staffed and optimum environments for learning. Trash was regularly picked up, crime was low, police vigilant at all hours. Hospitals with ambulances ready 24/7 were close. Trees lined the boulevards, playgrounds were staffed except in winter. At night street lights were on. I had a paper delivery route, mowed lawns and shoveled snow; always feeling safe.  My father held important positions as a crusader for social justice, my mother kept the home with five children.

Perhaps our lives in the USA could be called “white privilege.” I knew of parts of Washington DCghettos, that were very unsafe. Same with Baltimore where I went to art college and lived downtown with prostitutes on corners and muggings at night. Amy too was safe, although she had a Spanish surname and ran into prejudice from within her white enclave. 

As an adult, Amy lived in Minneapolis where she was one of the more famous artists before moving to Taos, New Mexico and starting a gallery. I settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico and eventually established myself as a successful artist. Even during times I was poor, I felt hope and possibility. We both always were creative enough to find jobs until garnering artistic success.

In 2019, Amy and I, married less than two years, moved to Oaxaca, Mexico.  American society and tensions between human demographics were coming to a fever pitch, culminating in the attack on the US Capitol, and exasperated by the Covid pandemic. We had visited Oaxaca for Dia de Muertos, went back home and, almost as a lark, found a house for sale online on a real estate site. It was everything we wanted, designed by a Mexican architect, made of adobe with artistic flourish, plenty of space with gorgeous views . . . the architect´s German wife was an agronomist who lovingly planted the grounds. It is situated in a pueblo bordering Oaxaca. The cost was far less than listings in the Santa Fe. 

We traveled to look at it. The architect had died and the owner moved back to Germany. We made a low offer, stipulating to include the furniture. Immediately we received an affirmative response. 

We have been living in Mexico three years and have permanent resident status. We brought about half our belongings, sold most of the rest and have a storage unit in Santa Fe filled mostly with art. We go back each year for about a month.

There is much to like in Mexico and much not to like. People are generally good, and have strong family bonds. This prevents lost souls from falling between the cracks as so often happens in the USA. Our city of Oaxaca is a cultural Mecca full of art, fine cuisine, traditions and frequent celebrations. It has more than once been listed in travel magazines as the #1 tourist destination in the world. Yet, outside of the city, life begins to resemble third world conditions. Roads are of poor quality, homes are basic without adornment, thievery is a problem, animals often have it bad, poverty is obvious. Most people have only basic eduction.

Amy and I live in a pueblo that is both vibrant and also typical of Mexico lower class. Our home is sublime, especially compared to those around us. The structure is adobe, with plenty of light and more space than we need, tile roofs and property with mature trees and a variety of plants. Also, our gray water goes to a water plant filtrations system. Some flowers bloom year long. Two seasons; wet and dry.

We have a young dog; Mexican breed, named MaliNalli Copali.

As have our neighbors, we have been robbed several times. Outdoor stuff but it is a nuisance. So I put up security cameras front and back. During the last incident we got pictures of the culprit.

We have good friends. An artist down the road builds our frames and he and his family are stalwart friends. Our closest neighbor too is a big help. Then the children who come to our house on Sundays for art lessons and refreshments. Much love.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steven—Great to read your update. Yes, it’s tough living with privilege—especially when it’s up close and personal. Here in Merida, I generally keep a formal relationship with immediate neighbors. (As I would anywhere.) Instead, I try to give back by volunteering at the English library and (ten years ago!) supporting community awareness of the Tren Maya…. It is what it is: We’re guests in a culture that’s barely intelligible…. Always great to see pictorial reminders of days when we picked up clues and made some sense of life together.—Stephen

Steve said...

Good to hear from you Stephen. Can't wait to get back with you in Mexico someday before too long.