When I moved to San Antonio, it was from a Mexican-style suburban neighborhood where most of my neighbors were Gringos or middle class Mexicans. I only knew one of my neighbors. Most of them stayed behind their walls, and only venture forth in their cars.
My new home, San Antonio is a Mexican village, despite the fact that a lot of Gringos live here. I live on a street much like the ones I walked on in Ajijic where Mexicans mostly lived. My neighbors here are mostly Mexican. This fact has given me the opportunity to start conversations and practice Spanish.
My abode is two houses away from a family that sets up a “roadside’ taco stand outside their home in the evening.
It’s just the typical Mexican taco-cooking paraphernalia and a few tables and chairs in the street. This type of enterprise goes on all over. One of the first things I did after moving in was introduce myself to them.
Just around the corner, and over the backyard fence, so to speak, lives Geri, a hardy Gringa who just bought her house, and moved in the same weekend I did. She’s been busy busting up an old kitchen with a sledge hammer (it was all built with cinder blocks) to put in a modern one.
She also has been trimming a big avocado tree in her yard, and planting a 20 foot palm tree. Other than dropping it in by helicopter, the tree needed to be brought through the front door of the house to the back yard. Geri’s an artist and she plans to install a fountain and, of course, paint the walls.
Well, this being Mexico, many neighborhoods are prone to losing electricity. Sometimes it lasts a few minutes, and sometimes it last for many hours. Spikes wreak havoc with American appliances. What I’ve recently learned is that appliances made for the Mexican market handle the irregular voltage found here – high and low – better than those made for the US.
In fairness, when I lived in Needham, Massachusetts, we had power outage 2-3 times a year. This went on for years. Most of the time, it was after a storm. Sometimes it would happen out-of-the-blue. You always knew the power had been out because you’d return home to find all the digital clocks blinking. The outages were always caused by the same transformer, and usually plunged hundreds of homes into darkness. First Boston Edison, and then Nstar must have thought that regularly dispatching repair trucks was more cost effective than actually fixing the problem.
Last Tuesday evening, I lost power. This never happened in my tony Ajijic neighborhood. When these “crises” occur, they provide an opportunity to form a bond with others in the same situation.
On Wednesday morning, I stuck my head out of my door to the street to see if anyone else had the same problem. That’s when I met my neighbor, Alejandro, who told me that he was informed that electricity would be restored “around” 10. He didn’t say whether that was a.m. or p.m.
Anyway, my encounter with Alejandro proved fruitful. About an hour later I was walking up the hill to catch a bus to Chapala, and Alejandro and his wife drove up and asked me if I needed a ride. They both work in Chapala. It was very nice of them, and it gave me a chance practice my Spanish and for them to correct me. Since many Gringos don’t make an effort to learn or speak Spanish, Mexicans are usually surprised and appreciative when they find a Gringo who does.
I got home to see a bucket truck at work around the corner. It was “around” 1 p.m. Everything was honky-dory until Friday night when we had a major storm roll through (more about that later). San Antonio was undergoing a week of revelry celebrating its patron saint (guess who?). The plaza had been transformed into an amusement park, and really awful bans played until 2 am every night. The only saving grace last Friday, was that the power outage affected the power to the loud speakers.
So Saturday morning, I’m trying to figure out what to do. Stepping out of my compound, I venture across the street, and introduce myself to Martin, the owner of a farmacia.
He has power, and tries to find a number to call CFE, the electricity company. Every other utility in the area is listed except CFE. They probably know that half the population of San Antonio has food rotting in their refrigerators, so why bother with a couple thousand people calling in panic. Anyway this happens all the time.
So, after talking with Martin, I checked with the taco people. Yes, they had power. Up on my terrace, I accosted Geri who was having coffee and taking a break from swinging the sledge hammer. She didn’t have power either. Geri’s house is wedged between the taco family on one corner and a corner store, called an Abarrote, on the other. Geri told me that she had talked with the owner who said the problem would be fixed around 10 a.m.
So I take a walk around the corner and introduce myself to Jesus, the owner of the corner store. Jesus truly looked distraught. Because of the festival, this is probably one of the biggest weekends for beer sales (sort of Christmas season in June). What would he do without cold beer?
Around 3 p.m. the power goes back on. Can this really be true? How long will it last? So I hike over to Jesus’ store. The coolers are humming and Jesus has big grin.
I give him a thumbs up in universal sign language.