They won’t list my blog on BlogHer – yet – seems I don’t post often enough for them, but that’s changing.  In the meantime, I wish they’d do a check every once in awhile on the blogs they do have listed – I tried several and they all came back “Page Not Found.”  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, y’know.

Last week we took four days and went to Michoacan for a wedding.  Miguel’s friend from childhood – the youngest in his family and the last to marry at 33.  They actually got married in December, in a civil service just for the family, and then they lived apart in different cities until the church wedding this weekend.

In a couple of weeks they’ll move back to the husband’s family home where the widowed father and several of the older brothers live (married and single).  According to Miguel’s mother and sister, Alejandro, Miguel’s friend, has been the bane of the daughters-in-law since adolescence.  The report is, he sits down at the kitchen table points at the woman and says, “You, serve my father and serve me.  Hurry up, we’re hungry.” 

Of the three married couples living in the family home, one died (shot by her suspicious husband who then shot himself and only ended up crippled), one left (divorced by her suspicious husband who kept the kids), and one that stayed and stood up to her husband, “Put your brother in his place or I’m outta here.”  Okay, she said it in Spanish, but with the same chutzpah.  She and I get along great.

So, now we’re all wondering what’s going to happen to Alejandro’s new wife.  She’s young, about 28, a psychologist who wants to set up her own clinic here in the big city.  She’s lived with her mother in a small rural town all her life and I don’t even think she knows how to cook.  Will she have to pay for her husband’s past arrogance?

The middle brother married a powerhouse.  She moved him out of the family home and it’s made for wonderful relations.  She and her sisters and all their husbands and kids travel everywhere together and the rest of Alejandro’s family just tags along.  There are about 30 of us when we travel together.

The wedding was in La Barca, Jalisco.  About five to six hours drive on the toll highways from the northwest edge of Mexico City, depending on who’s driving.  It’s a prosperous agricultural town spread out along the river that divides Jalisco from Michoacan.  They have beautiful flat roads and lots of bicyclists and even closed down the main road to host a bicycle race on Sunday.  It was the first time I’ve seen cyclists in helmets and riding gear since I got to Mexico.

Thirty minutes down the road from La Barca is Ixtlan de los Hervores, Michoacan.  Miguel’s father is from there.  Since we got to town two days before the wedding, we went straight to the geyser at Ixtlan the first afternoon to relax in the tepid pools and de-stress from the drive.  I won’t talk about hygiene – despite being old and run down, the geyser pools are relatively clean and you really don’t want the details.  Miguel’s family goes to Ixtlan every October as one of their pilgrimage trips.  The saint in Ixtlan is St. Francis of Assisi.  That’s for another story.

Next door to Ixtlan is Salitre, Michoacan.  The powerhouse bride and all of her sisters are from Salitre.  After the geyser, we went to visit in Salitre.  More beautifully flat roads.  (Are you getting the impression that where we live on the edge of Mexico City bike riding is akin to an extreme sport with rutted, broken pavement, hills so steep some cars can’t make it, and traffic that moves at the speed of loud?)  The pavement in Salitre is new.  Miguel thinks it is, anyway, but he hasn’t been there for 20 years.  The central plaza was also declared new, but a glance will tell you that the trees – currently painted the color of the Mexican flag, red and white trunks with leafy tops precisely trimmed to look like giant green cubes – have at least 15 years growth.  This time distortion probably has something to do with him not seeing me as 50 so I didn’t bother to point out the disparity between the growth and his definition of “new.”

We sat on the main plaza with some locals for a bit, watching a basketball game.  I commented to Miguel that it was all women playing – and such a broad age range of ages (late teens to early 40’s).

He said, “Don’t you notice anything strange about the people watching?”

There were no young men.  Except for our group, everyone on the plaza was either female, boys under 12, or men bent over walkers and canes.  And one loud, fat guy about 40.

“Their husbands are all in the North.”

Where we live is City.  There are jobs to be found.  It’s worthwhile to set up a taco stand in front of your house.  The local street markets are full of entrepreneurs selling everything from housewares to temporary tattoos.  Even the old lady that sells gelatin desserts in plastic cups door to door makes enough to get by.  But here in “the Provinces” the small towns can’t generate enough income to provide their families the basic necessities.  The men go in search of work and the women stay home and shoot hoops.

The saddest part is the small number that return home.  Miguel and Alejandro are the exceptions.  Of Miguel’s circle of friends and family that have gone north, only he, Alé and Adrian have come home voluntarily to make their life in Mexico.  Even the ones that are legal Resident Aliens or have become U.S. citizens, like Miguel, rarely come home to visit their families.  They’re all waiting to put together a big pile of money and come back and start a business – but that never happens.  Life in the U.S. is about working and paying bills and taxes – no matter where you start from.  So, 5, 10, 15 years pass and you end up with a car, maybe, and money sent home on a regular basis, but never enough to go home yourself, and people are always waiting in line at Western Union to pick up what little you can send back every pay day. Yes, Western Union . . . it’s one of the hottest businesse in Mexico.

I wonder why the men in Salitre have to go all the way to the U.S. to find work when thirty minutes down the road the local Ford dealer is selling a lot of 2008 king-cab 4-door Lobos at $35k USD each.

The reality of it is that life will be a struggle wherever you choose to live it, if the struggle is what you’re focused on.  Take me, for example.  I have a good life here in Mexico – a loving husband, a comfortable home, welcoming in-laws, a good job that pays U.S. dollars – but what keeps me up at night is the struggle I have at work.  Change I’m accustomed to.  I’ve lived in almost as many different places as the number of years I’ve been alive.  I just have an inherent mistrust of new people who come in and start criticizing and changing things before they even bother to inform themselves enough to know what works and what doesn’t and why.  Arrogant change.  Change for the sake of aggrandizing oneself before proving oneself.  I whine to my CTO and he says, “Make them your customers.  Figure out how best to give them what they want without compromising your goals.”

My husband just says, “They must have problems at home, don’t take it personal.”  He says that in response to any weird people we encounter.  And I’ve found it to be the truest interpretation of every people problem I’ve ever had.  Happy people aren’t rude or arrogant or aggressive.  They don’t need to be, no matter how stressful life may get.  And people who have problems at home usually live under such a black cloud that they can’t escape it.  No matter where they go.

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