I was weak because of lack of sleep and literally nothing in my stomach. A 6-hour trip through curvy mountain roads following slow diesel trucks didn’t do anything to help my energy level either. But la costa with all its tropical greenery and laid-back laissez faire lifestyle is magical. Extensive cultural studies have been done as to the effects of a tropical culture on a society. In Veracruz, you have to be either really stupid or really lazy to starve to death. A myriad of varieties of fruit are perpetually in season, with huge mango trees towering above everything else. I remember spending some time in Alamo in June, lying in bed one early morning and being scared awake when a big, ripe mango fell off a tree and hit a tin roof hard. BAM!
When that humidity hit me, all I wanted to do was sleep.
When someone dies in Mexico, there is a viewing either that same evening or, if a person passes on later on in the day, the next evening. A velorio is radically different than a viewing in the U.S. But in a small town, a velorio takes on a life of its own.
First of all, every single family member with their entire nuclear family descends on the family homestead. In the case of a large family, just this dynamic creates logistical challenges. In Aurora’s case, she has 6 living brothers and sisters, all with families. They live spread across Mexico from Reynosa on the border to Jalapa to Mexico City. Close friends also begin to descend upon the house. The evangelical church (in this case two different churches) begin to do their thing, and services are held nearly around the clock (really). Lastly, a good portion of the community gather around the house, on the street, and in the patio area to pay their respects. Oh, and all the extended family, every single person, sleeps in the house that night. How? I have no idea.
People tend to drift in and out of the house throughout the day, and find their way to a grassy patio area. Plastic tables with white plastic chairs appear, seemingly out of nowhere. People get busy lighting fires with firewood. Banana leaves, lots of them, are cut into big squares, and the masa, the tamale dough, is folded into the leaves and carefully placed into a big pot to cook. Coke and assorted soda, but especially Coke, appears on the tables. I have absolutely no clue how everyone is fed over a 24 hour period, but everyone eats their fill. No one goes hungry. It’s pretty amazing, actually.
Upon arriving I gave my respects to Eva, Aurora’s mother, and took in the sights and smells of the large, orange house with a river a stone’s throw away. I was privileged to be a part of it all. I began to meet members of the family that were “adopted” at some point into the family, and Samuel would inform me of some of the (hilarious) nicknames that many had been given over the years. Aurora found me. “There’s a little room upstairs with a bed, do you want to rest?” And with that, I saw a glimmer of hope that I would in fact make it through the day.
If you missed part 1 of this story, click HERE.