Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Wonder Women of Mexico

Goddess of the Lake
Ajijic startled me. 

Rather, the goddess who walks through the small villages on the shores of the largest lake in Mexico, the stunningly beautiful one with almost perfect weather, surprised and shocked me. I can hear you groan, but the longer I’m here, the more I’m convinced that something amazing happens here (and, admittedly, in other places in Mexico).

Families and horses
I’ve never seen the goddess, nor do I know her name, although the goddess-fish princess of Pre-Columbian Mexico is named Teomichicihualli. For obvious reasons, we will simply refer to her as the goddess and ponder her touch which transforms ordinary folks from foreign lands into Wonder Women, brimming with compassion, creativity, confidence, and a contributing spirit. I’ve met some of the Wonder Women here, glowing with the touch of the goddess and spreading hope and new possibilities like floating milkweed seeds across the land.

Meeting them has made me wonder what happens here that frees their spirits and gives them the golden touch of compassionate creativity. In a short conversation with Judith Faith Stanley, who has created an art center here, I mentioned this curiosity about what people do when they come to Mexico and she said, “Whatever they want to do.”

Shore dogs reveling in freedom
Simple, but brilliant. This lakeside village, and many other places in Mexico, are perfect convergences of needs, wants and talents, known and unknown. Wherever a Wonder Women looks, there are opportunities: art to be made from the vibrant colors and culture, street dogs that need care, music to be sung to shut-ins and people making their final transitions, children who need homes, health care, and education; indigenous artisans whose traditional arts needs to be shared and supported; villages that need clean water; lakes and mountains to be protected; injured birds and animals to be rescued.

Iglesia de San Antonia de Padua
In Canada and the US, people who have sufficient means tend to choose neighborhoods that are pretty: tree-lined streets, flowered yards, easy access to supermarkets offering a endless choice of everything. We carefully choose an environment of prosperity, security and well-being.

When we move to Mexico, we are often living in the midst of the nitty-gritty for the first time. Even if we choose to live in a gated community, our lives inevitably wind through the plazas and tiendas of real life. Suddenly, we see tiny children selling green beans, mothers carrying small mountains of embroidered purses and painted bookmarks through coffee shops and plazas in an unending effort to feed their children, skinny street dogs scouting for food, cars held together with spit and ingenuity, and families of four on a motorcycle.

Young girl in parade
Life in Mexico is close to the bone and what happens next
can be surprising, sometimes even shocking. Living in the midst of visible needs changes the way we see the world … with the help of the goddess, of course. And, while everyone responds to their changed conditions in their own ways, some find themselves drawn into new challenges, responding to the needs closest to their hearts with creativity and ingenuity. Under the touch of the goddess, they grow and become Wonder Women (and Wonder Men).

Dancer at Water Ceremony
The first several months of living in Mexico is often a sensory feast, gorging on the sunshine and color, the friendliness and slower pace, the kaleidoscope of culture, the freedom from former expectations and responsibilities. However, at some point, there is a turning, a realization that we’re here, actually living in a new world, a world with incredible beauty and heartbreaking needs. Everywhere we look, laced through the color and charm, there are problems … big ones we’ll never be able to fix, and small ones that perhaps we could do something about. So, we begin and the stories unfold.

Friends here were having work done on their house. One of the workers started telling them about his family and his son who attended a nearby school. The goddess winked as the conversation unfolded, and my friends heard about a school with problems: not enough supplies, a lack of books, broken toilets. Since coming to Mexico, they have rescued three health-challenged dogs. Now, they have adopted a school.

Crested caracara
At a fund raiser for the Tepehua Community Center in Chapala, I met a couple who rescue animals which, because of injuries or other reasons, will never be able to be released back into the wild. They introduced me to a crested caracara, a raptor sacred to the Aztecs.

Looking into the eyes of that incredible bird, I saw a fierceness of spirit which made me think that's part of the goddess's touch, a fierce determination to make a difference and generously give back to this country that touches us every day with it's open friendliness and beauty.

This blog is dedicated to sharing some of the Mexico stories I find as I explore the country, including the stories of fierce compassion of Wonder Women and their contributions.

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