Friday March 26 2010
“I Will Pray You Find Someone to Love You.”
Ten at night here at the ranch. Outside a mariachi band is playing, a couple dozen relatives are still here, drinking two buck chuck and beer. My grandfather spruced up and has been enjoying glass after glass of wine, often with beer chasers. The food was delicious tonight; we had shrimp tamales, a shrimp salad, refried beans with fresh hunks of homemade cheese melting in them, they were so decadent I wanted to drown myself in them and I definitely overate. I ate shrimp for lunch as well. My cholesterol is freaking out I’m sure.
Relatives abound. My biological grandfather, Lencho, (not the one whose birthday we’re celebrating), had dozens of children with half a dozen women. Tonight I met seven half-aunts and uncles and cousins I’ve never met before, from three different mothers. I look like them, which is weird since I don’t look at all like the family I know. One uncle told me I’m pure Huerta, which according to some people in my family, I shouldn’t take as a compliment since my grandfather was a bigamist and had moments of being somewhat cruel. Another aunt told me there are at least four more Elizabeth Huertas besides me. I have a cousin I’m meeting later in the week who is supposed to look like my twin.
When I was growing up I was twig-thin. I was always being force fed. Now that I’m in my thirties there is nothing wrong with my appetite and I have filled out. Now, of course, everyone is warning me against getting fat. I try not to roll my eyes at them. That is everyone’s second favorite topic
with me. The other is the obvious problem of my refusal to breed. One cousin of my fathers, a man I don’t particularly care for, held my hand and told me very seriously he would pray for someone to love me. I really wanted to tell what he would do with his prayers but when I’m here, the good girl in me attempts to come out.
At the party tonight I was torn. There are women’s tables and men’s tables. I sat with the women who gossiped and clucked away about things I don’t care about. That is, when we weren’t refilling drinks and serving and clearing. The men’s table included an uncle who is writing a book on the family and I really wanted to talk to him but it would have been inappropriate to sit with the men and deny them their manhood, if that makes any sense. The lines here are clearly defined. It isn’t something I care for but I try my best not to fuck up cultural norms any more than I already do.
I’ve been here a little more than 24 hours and I’m already at my saturation point of human contact. I spend a lot of time alone at home and I miss my psychic space. Today we went to town, came back to the ranch then went to town again. I got my hair cut and shopped with my grandmother and aunts for the party tonight. When we got back I snuck away to take a power nap since I was up at 5 to milk the cows and make tortillas (I don’t think I’ll tire of saying that, I feel so authentic). The other women prepared for the party. Kind of showed my bad daughter face but I needed to recharge. I’m exhausted and having digestive problems that are adding to my fatigue.
We’re heading to Mazatlan tomorrow for one night, to eat seafood and hang out in the old part of the city. I have more cousins to meet. I may spring for my own hotel room just so I can be alone. And wash my hair since here the shower dribble barely enough water to lather up my body, let alone my mane.
Time moves slowly here. I remember when I lived in Mexico before I loved how time dawdled along. But I was living in a dynamic town. There were things to do, I could go for walks, explore, sit in hot springs. I had people to talk with, friends with common interest. Here I’m somewhat limited. There really isn’t anything to do. Going into town is kind of an ordeal and I psnt half an hour at the internet cafe just posting a blog entry I had already written. An uncle (or cousin?) is bringing by a book of poetry tomorrow by a local author. Maybe I’ll spend some time translating.
I have my headphones on. Listening to Jeff Buckley. I’ll day dream the night away I hope, until the mariachi pack up and leave and the roosters begin their nocturnal calling. I’ll steal these few moments of solitude while the family imbibes and sings along.
Saturday March 27, 2010
“Oh, you’re sitting alone with a book? You must want me to talk to you. . .”
Ten in the morning here at the ranch and music is blasting. We just ate a huge breakfast of chilaquiles, leftover beans, fresh cheese and eggs. Last night I holed myself away until the crowd left around 1am. I woke up early this morning, before anyone else and took my coffee and journal out to the front patio to have a little solitude and writing time. Wrong move. As soon as I went outside, our next-door neighbors, a cousin and his friend, saw me and decided to pay a social visit. They sat int the rocking chairs and started blah-blah-ing about this and that while I feigned interest. Soon another uncle passed and joined us. The cooler was still full of beer from last night and they all opened beers. More relatives arrived. I don’t even remember what they were talking about I was so frustrated. I really have to get it into my head that no one here likes to be alone, therefore when someone is sitting alone, it is an open invitation for company. The rest of the house woke up and joined and part two of the party last night is well underway.
I escaped and have been sitting the corner with my laptop and headphones on. I tried to read but then they put the boom box on. I put on my headphones and told everyone I had work to do. I started a couple of poems and like what I have so far. I would love to sit outside in a rocking chair but I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. My grandmother and aunts have started making fun of me, since I keep going from room to room in search of solitude. Here at the ranch social interaction is everything. In the “olden days” familial ties were key to survival and the tradition remained. A cousin I haven’t seen in ten years came over last night and she insisted in holding my hand. We knew each other as kids but family is family. She, like everyone else, wanted to have the same tired conversation about my wholly incomprehensible life choices.
I guess its kind of funny. Even now, I’m in the corner with my back to the room with my headphones on, writing, with a big book open next to me. Cousins show up and come sit on the floor to ask what I’m doing. I will bite the bullet. I will interact. Bah!!!
Saturday March 27, 2010 Afternoon
“Graveyards and cows, with a side of beer” or “You should have been born a man”
(As I write this I’m munching on a bowl of dried shrimp with chile and lime. Washed down with yet another beer)
Four in the afternoon and I’ve had maybe a dozen beers since 11. Things run on a different time line here, and a different level of sobriety are acceptable. Around 11 this morning I wanted to run down the street to my Aunt Conchi’s store to buy some some cigarettes to see if nicotine would end my intestinal blockade. My aunts Lily and Silvia came with me. Conchi is married to my half-uncle Piyín. At the store my Great-Uncle Ramón was chilling in a hammock. We started talking about my dead grandfather and suddenly everyone wanted to go to the graveyard to see him. Graveyards are big here. I thought we would swing by, stand around, pay our respects and jet. I was wrong.
Before we even left for the graveyard I knew things were going to be interesting. I went sent back to grandmother’s house to get a cooler full of beer. We climbed into the back of my Uncle Piyín’s truck and picked up my Uncle Jaime who was buying food. We rode to the graveyard. A note: I LOVE riding in the backs of trucks. There is nothing like it in the world. The graveyard is about five minutes from the village and I enjoy every second with the wind in my hair. I downed two beers before we even got the graveyard and my uncle Jaime told me I am pure Huerta, more on that later. At the graveyard we took our cooler full of beer, plates and cups and went to to sit in front my my dead grandfather;s tomb. The uncle have built a little straw hut in front of it so they can come and drink with my grandfather. What a freaking great tradition. It was hot and we drank beer after beer and ate tostadas with fresh raw scallops, shrimp and octopus. I pulled out my tape recorder and recored a great conversation about family history and all the wives my grandfather had (HACK!! HACK!! I just accidentally ate a spiky shrimp head. Ouch!) I found out my great-grandfather wasn’t from this area originally, he arrived during the revolutionary war around 1913 and fell in love with a local and stayed. We cleaned my grandfather’s grave and visited one of his wife’s tombs.
After the graveyard my uncles had to go to the cows. I had a good buzz on by this time and went happily with them. When we arrived at the pasture I leapt out of the back of the truck, found the baby cow I had to feed and bottle fed him like an expert. (His mom head butted my hand and gashed open my finger with her horn, but I still have too much alcohol in my veins to feel it but it has bled a lot). After I fed the calf, my uncle Jaime gave me a syringe and I freaking helped inject a cow’s teats. I have a way with animals. One of my uncles patted me on the back and told me it was a pity I wasn’t born a man since I am so good with livestock and more Huerta than Huerta. They say I should marry a farmer. Another uncle told me I should just move to the ranch and help them since their children all move away. Happy and full of booze I shrugged. As long as I’m active and not stuck at the house, I’m happy.
I’m back at my grandmother’s house. Everyone is eating tamales. My grandmother scolded me because I “let myself get so dark, like an indian.” I’m wearing SPF 80. Not much I can do about my genes, grandma, I tan easily. We’re leaving for Mazatlan in a few to go to a party. Tomorrow we’re going to a town called Chametla to eat seafood and hang out. I’m still awed at how long the days last here. If I were at home a week would have passed since I woke up. There are no clocks hrer, I only know what time it is when I open my laptop. I called B this morning to say hello and my dad has called several times but other than that I have no contact with the outside world. I’m content. Not overly happy and I’m sure I’ll get cranky again before my time here is done but for now I’m relaxed.