Yanet and Manuel celebrated their first Valentines Day as a married couple last month, after seven years of dating. (Though here in Mexico, February 14 is the “Day of Friendship and Love,” softening the blow of what my friend Michelle calls “Singles Awareness Day” in el norte. But back to Yanet and Manuel, whose wedding must have surely been the highlight of the season in Teotitlán del Valle, just east of Oaxaca City.
Sure, there may be fancier temazcal (sweatlodge) experiences here in Oaxaca. But would you get to lie naked in a sheet under a moonlit sky next to a curled-up dog, with accordion music wafting down from a nearby fiesta? Bet not.
I wish I were changing the world in a big way, I really do. For those of you out on the front lines – teaching in underfunded classrooms, feeding and clothing the poor, battling social injustice for the disenfranchised, curing diseases and patching wounds, indeed fighting battles for good on any front – I salute you from the bottom of my heart.
For the rest of us, it’s just baby steps in how we change our little part of the world. But the older I am, the more I see how heroic of an effort that really is.
While some of you were waiting on a groundhog to predict whether there would be six more weeks of winter up in el norte, I was eating tamales with a way cool bunch of women in the tiny mountain town of San Miguel de Valle in the eastern Oaxaca valley.
It was actually a double holiday: Constitution Day as far as the government was concerned, and Día de la Candelaria on the Catholic calendar, celebrating the day that Jesus graduated from swaddling and hit the street in real clothes.
Like the rest of my life here in Oaxaca, Thanksgiving this year packed a double cultural punch.
On one hand, there was gringo-prepared turkey and dressing with all the trimmings on Saturday since Thursday was a regular working day here. On the other, there was the opportunity to reflect on some of the things I take for granted on the thankometer every day. Running water, for instance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I didn’t wear my harem costume this year for Day of the Dead; that would have been 2009 when I was still feeling a little let out of school to be living in Mexico. But that three-week trip to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos was a life-changer. I knew that if this place were this magic despite a missed flight, a grumpy traveling companion and a bout of the swine flu – it must really be special.
Last month, $50 bought me not quite all of a pair of shoes in Dallas. Last week, the same amount provided me the opportunity to buy into the hopes and dreams of half a dozen women in rural Mexico.