A Little Background
A few years ago, a wonderful lady named Maribel and her daughter, Amanda, attended our church. Our emotions were mixed when Maribel married Marcello Fernandez, a pastor in New York City: happy for her and her new husband and sad that we would no longer be seeing them on a regular basis. After a while of service in New York City, they volunteered to move to his native Mexico and pastor a church there. She extended to us an invitation at that time to come and see them there. After about 2 years we finally took her up on it.
This is the second installment in a series about that trip.
You may read the first post by clicking on Day 1.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Upon arising after a good night’s sleep, we got ready for the day and walked down to the hotel restaurant where Daniel quickly showed up and helped us order.
I think we might have gotten him out of bed. Steven ordered scrambled eggs with cheese and I ordered an omelette with tomatoes, onions, and sausage. Their sausage tasted different than ours, but was very good.
I let them give me beans and tortillas and Steven did not. We soon learned that beans and tortillas come with every meal unless you ask for them to not bring them. We both ordered some fruit which turned out to be apples, cantaloupe (Daniel didn’t know what the English word cantaloupe was but instead just called it melon), banana, and papaya. It was served with honey and lime. Maribel told us later that they think the honey helps with digestion of the fruit.
We then drove to the home of our hosts. Maribel offered us some freshly squeezed orange juice and after showing us around their home we walked down what we would call about 1/2 block to the church. Here are some pictures.
This is the view from the street.
You enter the church from the left side. Here is Amanda with the painting that’s on the wall next to the entrance.
Here are Pastors Marcello and Maribel Fernandez at the entrance with the posted service times.
This is what you see when you walk in. (Well, you probably won’t see these people in these exact spots.) It is an L shaped room opening to the right and left. The street is out the window you see here on the right. The building is small but tidy and clean. The roof is thick corrugated metal, similar to many others we saw. The floor is concrete. The benches are wooden and smooth.
This is what if you look in the window by the street. Notice the fans. They don’t have air conditioning and it gets VERY hot there, especially with lots of people in the room.
This is what you see directly in front of you as you walk in the door. The light is on ahead of you in the bathroom.
Following this we headed out of town: destination Mesa Del Tigre. We had mentioned to Daniel at breakfast that we were going to Mesa Del Tigre and Paso Real and he didn’t know where it was. That should have been a clue that it was a little off the beaten path. We drove northward on Hwy 180 and then turned onto a rocky rutted mud road which goes through what they call a ranch, but we would call farms and orchards. It jostled my brain, and I was suddenly impressed at the wisdom of my husband renting an SUV. I don’t know how a car could have made it. They usually take a bus which is reportedly even more bouncy and jarring. We passed groves of trees growing oranges, papaya, more oranges, grapefruit, bananas, and oranges, plus also crops of beans and corn, and then more oranges. Amanda was saying she was hungry, so we promised to stop at the next McDonald’s we saw. She was happy until she realized the nearest McDonald’s was about 2 hours away. We paused long enough for Marcello to pick a few oranges which actually turned out to be what we would call clementines. There was fruit everywhere: on the trees, on the ground, in the ditch… I told Amanda this was the drive-thru. The fruit was delicious. She still wanted McDonald’s.
We climbed into the mountains and passed through Paso Real, the little village we would return to later in the day for service. First, though, we were visiting some saints in nearby Mesa Del Tigre. As she drove, Maribel dodged chickens running wild, and she said if she hit one she’d have to pay for it. Evidently they know exactly which chicken belongs to whom.
We arrived at Mesa Del Tigre and drove into a field surrounded by homes.
Most of the construction is concrete block covered with stucco or plaster. The homes were very open to the air. One of these homes belonged to Hermana Santa (her first name is Santa, the Spanish word for saint, and “hermana” means sister).
Here is Amanda with a beautiful bush outside the home we visited.
Hermana Santa was very hospitable and sweet and made us fresh tortillas and some chicken soup with fresh cilantro. The round bowl-type object in the middle of the table is a hollowed-out gourd used to keep tortillas warm.
Here is how she made the tortillas.
She sold a fresh turkey to Maribel who took it into town and resold it for the same price. Maribel helps her get her chickens and turkeys to market this way.
She also had a parrot which she did not sell. His name was Doroteo and he did not like Steven to take the video. The bird kept turning his back to the camera.
Following lunch, we went back part-way down the mountain to Paso Real, the village we had come through earlier, where we had church service.
It was a church belonging to another group, but one of the men of the village lets them use it to gather.
12 people were in attendance besides our 5.
Marcello opened the service with prayer
Then we sang some songs. I tried to play along on the violin, but the songs were new to me, so I’m afraid I was probably more hindrance than help. They sang a few slow songs and a few fast ones. The fast ones were in a minor key. They usually sing a capella with Maribel leading.
Then I played a violin solo of How Great Thou Art. They knew the chorus and sang along in Spanish as I played. The weather was very humid and cool, and embarrassingly, I had to stop and tune in the middle of my song. It just wouldn’t stay in tune.
Then Steven preached and Maribel interpreted for him. She was nervous as this was her first time translating for a sermon, but did a splendid job. The prayer after the sermon was a wonderful time of time of repentance and dedication.
Following service we met each of the people there. I took some pictures from the door of the church. As you come out the door, this is what you see.
Thatched roofs are common. They are made of palm tree fronds, and they do not leak.
Here is a picture of the underside of a thatched (palm frond) roof. This method is vertical, weaving the fronds in and out of a wooden structure.
The bottom half of this picture shows the other kind I saw. In it, the fronds are placed horizontal and attached to the bracing, but not really woven.
If you look left when you go out of the church, this is your view.
And you see this if you look right.
Down this road a bit is their general store, a house with a walk-in-closet-size room in the front with a few items for sale. I went with Amanda there to buy some toilet paper. This was a recurring theme on this day. The bathroom was an outhouse-like structure out in back of the church. I rapidly discovered that the American definition of “bathroom” is very narrow.
I also saw my first tortilla truck. This works on the same concept as our ice cream trucks. A loudspeaker on the top of the car or truck plays music and occasional advertisements for fresh tortillas and tortilla dough. I never saw them sell any, but I guess they do.
From here we got in the Jeep and drove to the house of the elder who allowed us to use the building. His wife was sick at home with a diabetic ulcer on her foot. We went in the home and prayed for her, also meeting part of the family. Extended family is very important in their social structure. Everywhere we went we were introduced to sons, daughters, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandparents, cousins… Extended family is their welfare, social security, health care insurance, and all-around support system.
Following this, we got back in the Jeep and drove back over the bumpy roads, through the orchards, to Casitas. We dropped by a hotel owned by church members Gabriel and Rosa. They also own a ranch with cattle and lime orchards. Then we went to eat at a place called El Pirata (The Pirate). Gabriel and Rosa also came with their grandson to eat with us. We discussed farming and ranching. A lime farmer this season is getting 800 pesos for a metric ton of limes. That’s about $61 American for 2,205 pounds, or 2.7 cents per pound of limes. I remember paying a lot more than that the last time I bought limes at the grocery store. With the farmer getting that much money, I imagine that his laborers picking the fruit aren’t getting paid very much.
They had very good food at El Pirata in very large portions. Their appetizer was a spiced shredded fish with chips and a hot sauce meant to be mixed with mayonnaise. (They use a lot of mayonnaise there, even putting it on their corn-on-the-cob in place of butter.) This was quite good and we ate a lot of it as we waited for our food. While we waited, this gentleman came around to entertain us.
Steven took a video of him singing, which he thought was delightful, perhaps because we also gave him a tip. This reminded me of my teenage days when I belonged to a group of strolling musicians that often played at banquets as people ate. Amanda told us later that he was singing “All the drunk people raise their hands”. But we weren’t drunk, so we didn’t.
Here he is singing his song.
The entire time we were there people tried to sell us snack and trinkets. I got quite good at “No, Gracias”. Rosa bought us some sweets that were fried dough with sugar on them. They reminded me of the Cinnamon Twists served at Taco Bell, but they were much better.
After eating, Maribel delivered Hermana Santa’s turkey to a local restaurant owner who also happens to be the landlord for their home and the church building. That family owns several local businesses including a fish market and restaurant.
This season is a busy time for Casitas, as it is a coastal town frequented by many Mexicans on holiday. Since we were there between Christmas and New Years, business was good. I do think, though, that we were the only Americans in town. I’m sure in that little town of 2,225 our presence was known.
Following this, Marcello, Maribel, and Amanda walked across the street to their house, and we drove on down the road to our hotel.