Last month we welcomed into the house a new student, Isabel, 16. Isabel grew up in and out of a children’s home and has been on her own for nearly two years, bouncing from home to home where people have been willing to help. She has sought work as far away as Mexico City but as she has only a 6th grade education and is still so young, work is hard to find. Isabel came to us at the end of April and wanted a place to stay while she worked and earned enough money to go to her home town. When asked what was waiting for her at home she said nothing, no one can support me, I will have to find a job and work is hard to find there. Isabel left home for the same reason two years ago and we had a long talk about her future. She decided to give living at Casa Isabel a try, but as a student. We found what is called an “open” school, which is a school for older students who want to continue their education. Open means that the students test out of each grade when they are ready. The groups are small and although the time is short they get more attention from their teachers. Right now Isabel is working a part-time job in the mornings and going to school in the evenings. It will be a tough adjustment for Isabel to live in a home with more structure that she is used to. We hope she will stick it out and realize the benefits of continuing her education. Please keep her in your prayers as she makes this adjustment.
May is Festival Time
May in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is a time for festivals in honor of town patrons, here in Espinal we have several chapels and last month was the vela for St. Mark. The traditional vela has three components, the dance, the parade and the Mass. Each town has its own traditions but slowly we are learning more about the inner workings of the festivals. Last month at the last minute we found out that the 9 year old daughter of our neighbor was going to be the queen of St. Mark’s Vela. The queen presides over the parade, and during the parades items such as plastic ware, candy and fruit are tossed to the people on the parade route. We had been to various parades, called regadas from the Spanish word “to shower”, but had never seen the inner workings of how the family pays for all the items that are thrown to the people. It turns out it is all about community. We came home one day and t he neighbors were building a float and we wandered over. Inside a small fife and drum band was playing and people were sitting chatting. I asked another neighbor about the tradition and was told that the community is invited to bring over items to give out at the parade in order to help the family. I ran home and got some chips and balls that we had purchased and took them over to the home. I gave them to the queen’s mother and she sat me down, brought me food and a platter as a thank you. I sat and chatted with the other guests and learned that whenever anyone has a big party they make an announcement. Then on the day before the party the women of the town go and help with the preparations or bring something for the party. When the time comes for your party or event, the neighbors will come and help you.
Spring is mango season here in the isthmus. We have a mango tree here in our yard and in late March it was dripping with mangoes. The people here eat green mangoes as well as ripe ones. The green mangoes are sliced and drowned in spicy sauce. There are so many mangoes that there is not much sense trying to sell them and the neighbors usually give them away. To pick the mangoes we put a two liter coke bottle upside down on the end of a ten foot pole. The bottle is cut out on the side of the wide end that the mangoes would fall into the bottle. We picked from twenty to thirty mangoes a day for several weeks. There was a young single mother who was in need of money so we would give her mangoes three times a week and she would make mango sweets to sell. We had a good yield this year and it felt so good to be able to share what we had with others in the community; and of course, in the community sharing spirit the young mother just brought over a bag of limes off her tree, so we will be happily drinking limeade for the next several days.
God bless you all this spring.