Tag Archives: casa

Stuff Mexicans Like #8: Poco a Poco (Everything a little at a time/Little by little)

20 May
 
One of my favorite scenes as I drive or stroll through any Mexican town are the varillas (metal rods/rebar) that extend from the roofs of casas. These homes seem to be shouting, “You may think I look shabby now; but just imagine my potential!” House upon “finshed” house have these stakes protruding from concrete ceilings like cold shafts of HopeUn día… they whisper. Some of these rods go on to form the stable structural base for a second, third, or fourth level on the house. Others remain untouched, uncovered, until the day the homeowner dies and passes the house on to parientes (relatives) or sells the place. The great poet, playwright, author: Hughes, speaks of the latter situation as a Dream Deferred and holds bleak expectations for its outcome. Mexicans (as all Spanish speakers), however, believe to Hope to be synonymous for to Wait (esperar) and often seem unfazed by long delays and promised rewards. 
 
La Esperanza (Hope)
Poco a Poco is the expression used to plant Hope in dismal circumstances that appear to remain steadily unpromising. So you live in a concrete square with no furniture, appliances, or bedding? Poco a poco. You say your partner left you for another and now you are trying to repair the damaged relationship or move on? Poco a poco. You’ve dreamed of writing a book, getting published, and travelling the world doing book tours, changing lives along the way, but no one want to read your manuscript? Poco a poco. Poco a poco embodies an attitude of unwavering Faith that all things will get better en su momento (in their time). It is a relief, a respite from the need to control, to worry, to expect, to be impatient. It is a promise for a better mañana.  
 
El Apatia (apathy)
On the flip side, one may become so comfortable in his or her poco a poco mentality that (s)he no longer battles, no longer strives, no longer works toward the dream. Driven is perhaps one of the top adjectives I would use to describe my paisanos (fellow countrymen), the United Statesians. Mexicans are also driven, but they are driven to different motives: driven to maintain peace, to keep the family united, and to maintain status quo as another means of being united with all other Mexicans. Putting another floor on the house takes a back seat when money gets tight and is often forgotten altogether, like the silenced rebar on the techo. Other times it is more serious; a woman’s decision to leave her abusive partner by getting work, maybe returning to the family of origin for a season, becomes poco a poco instead of today it is too much. Today I will leave.   
 
While effort mixed with intention always produces change, sometimes it is slow or invisible to the naked eye. These are opportnuities to beef up your fe (faith) and to remain steady. Next time you find yourself in despair, RESIST alongside your Mexican hermanos by repeating your new mantra, Poco a Poco.           
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#3: La Cleanliness

17 May
 https://i0.wp.com/images.travelpod.com/users/kupdegra/copper_canyon.1188405000.p1020554.jpg
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” had to have been originally quoted by a Mexican. Mexicans value cleanliness so much that it is the first thing one does after arising and the last thing one does before bed. During the course of the day, one needs helpers if things are to be kept adequately clean. First things first: the sidewalk in front of your house. You don’t want your neighbors seeing a surplus of fallen leaves just outside your gate or dog urine or an empty Coke bottle. This is what “not taking care of your house and family” looks like. As for before bed, well, there are dishes and teeth to be washed, faces to be scrubbed, and showers to be had by all. One person alone could never take on all the dirst that comes your way during the day. This is why my maid has a maid. And her maid has a maid. And I’m nearly certain that if I were to investigate, I would discover that my maid’s maid has a maid. Maid service in Mexico is like having a garrafón or basic cable. It is not optional.
A male Mexican friend of mine was watching my then 15 year old sweep and mop the tile floor of my bookstore one day. I felt proud and content, like Mother of the Year. Unfortunately my friend interrupted my self-satisfaction with, “Why don’t you teach your hijo to clean?” What?!? Was my son not there, sleeves rolled up, pushing a wet soapy mop around like nobody’s business? “He is cleaning,” I replied. “I mean real cleaning,” retorted the Mexican. I gave the Mexican permission to “teach” my son “real cleaning” and I stood back to take notes. A hand-held scrub brush was produced, as well as a bucket of fuming bleach water mixed with purple Fabuloso. I pulled out the camera as the two young men rolled up their jeans, hit their knees, and began to sweat profusely while manually removing any trace of dirt from the last 500 years from my antique floor. A Mexican taught me to clean a floor.
 
I never felt so dirty as when I started dating Mexican men. The same scrubbing that applies to a Mexican floor is generally applied to the entire body, including eyelids, scalp, behind the ears, between the toes, etc. (I prefer to wash the hair once every other day to avoid dry-out.) My sidewalk woud shame even the dirtiest street person. I use only a standard mop from the tiendita when doing my twice a week rounds. My maid is called in for emergencies only, and that only being once a month on avergae. I do not wash my clothes by hand with the outside patio clothes-sink. (That is already occupied by Christmas items waiting around for next December.) It is a rare occasion that I stick my hand in the toilet, the obvious best way to get it clean, according to Mexican ways. I leave the cozy seat on my toilet, to avoid unintentional drownings. (Many-most Mexicans remove this seat with tools upon purchase so as not to pose any interference with typical hand-in-the-bowl daily cleaning.
(Note: I am pretty sure that this extreme cleanliness business ties in with the national adoration of La Virgen, also! What Virgin do you know who isn’t sparkling soapy clean?)