Living  |  See all articles tagged lifestyles or in region Jalisco

A story about the "Gringa Mama".

Jean Barnett

After their sister Sylvia's 15th birthday party Sylvia went to live in Guadalajara. Thirteen-year-old Ricardo, one-year-old Sergio, and their two-year-old sister went to live with an aunt in Jocotepec. Strangely, I never learned the younger sister's name. She was simply referred to as "hermana."

I met their aunt at a party, accompanied by little "hermana" and the boys with her. I was a little miffed to see the pretty little girl dressed in jeans and a T-Shirt instead of one of the dresses I had given her.

One day Ricardo proudly announced that he and Sergio now had their very own "place". I investigated. The "place" was an abandoned shed, the walls eaten a foot or more above the dirt floor by grubs. As my sight adjusted to the dimly-lit room, Ricardo eagerly directed my attention to the darkest end of the room. My initial revulsion was immediately transformed into one of deep humility. An orange crate standing on end was draped in a dark cloth. On it stood a faded picture of the Virgin, a cross, a half-burnt candle, a scrap of straw matting at the base for a kneeling pad.

Their beds were constructed of rough boards suspended on bricks; thin ragged sheets were neatly laid on top. The only other furnishing was a crate used for a table. Their prize possession was a small, rusted, microwave oven in which they kept their tortillas out of the reach of the rats.

Appalled and deeply concerned, I supplied them with warm blankets, a small table, dishes and cutlery, etc. Under these damp conditions Sergio's pulmonary problem worsened. I confided their plight to kindly members of The Little Chapel By The Lake. Their concern and response was overwhelming.They bought Ricardo a pair of shoes and inhalators for Sergio.

I invited Ricardo to church to personally thank the donors. Clad in his new T-Shirt and best jeans, his wavy hair shining, I was proud to introduce this handsome youth. His winning smile and gracious expression of gratitude stole their hearts. They set about to provide a job for him and accommodations for these hapless orphans. They found Ricardo a good job, delivering for a bakery in Chapala and supplied bus fare. He appeared for work the first two mornings but never showed up again.

When I expressed my disappointment in him and impressed upon him the fact that one must work to survive, he sadly walked away in tears. He didn't return to wash cars again.

Deeply concerned, I investigated and found that they had abandoned the shed and vanished from my life as mysteriously as they had entered it. I felt very sad as I had no way of tracing them and resigned myself to never seeing my beloved orphans again.

Several months later, however, as we parked in front of the Little Chapel, a car-wash boy waved gingerly to me. It was Ricardo! I opened my arms, he dropped his cleaning rag and ran into them crying, "Mama, Mama." They were then living with another aunt in Chapala.

Several months later Sergio, "hermana" and Raul, their eldest brother who had just returned from the States, walked into my garden. "Hermana" was still wearing those awful jeans and T-Shirt.

Raul spoke English and we chatted over cookies and lemonade. He had come to thank me for taking care of his brothers. He presented me with a lovely metal, tulip-shaped candleholder he had made.

"Come here Edgar, and get a cookie." He called to "hermana".

I was shocked."EDGAR?" I gasped, "Why does your sister have a boy's name?"

Confused by my question he replied, "Because Edgar is a boy. Why do you ask?"

I produced the album of photos taken of the children from the time they first came to see me, including Sylvia's party. When he saw this particular photo, he explained that she was not their sister, but Ricardo's girlfriend!

Some time later I noticed two ladies standing outside of my house as if looking for someone. I went out and spoke with them. I was surprised to find that one lady was the boys' aunt. She recognized me and explained that her sister was looking for domestic employment. I invited them in for a cup of tea. When they walked into my living room, the sister spied the candelabra, picked it up and exclaimed: "My son Raul made this!" As if a neon light flashed before her she cried, "YOU must be the lady my little Edgar calls his Linda Gringa Mama!"

My three temporary orphans still visit me and shower me with love. Ricardo is married; Sergio lives with his father, and Edgar with his Mama.

I still do not know what strange circumstances brought those three little boys in my life; nor do I care. More important is the fact that the dear Lord directed them to me. I shall be forever grateful for the joy of being their "Linda Gringa Mama."

This article appears courtesy of the Chapala Review, a monthly Newspaper published in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. The focus is the Lake Chapala area. The goal is to provide quality information about the area, its stories, events, history, culture and people.

Published or Updated on: January 7, 2007 by Jean Barnett © 2008
All Tags