An extended family lives in this compound in the center of the state of Yucatan. There are three generations here and the two elders, the grandmother and grandfather, are 88 and 90 respectively. They both still cook, pick crops, take care of chickens, and maintain their home. They are skinny and agile and in full posession of their faculties.
One of their sons lives in the compound with his wife and their two enthusiastic boys, in a cement house close to the road.
This house was probably originally pole and thatch, but now sections of it are filled in with scrap timber, linoleum, corrugated fiberglass, and other materials.
This is the laundry. I mean, if you need to do your laundry outside in a batea (tub), this would be the prettiest setting I could imagine.
The general tone of the compound is happy and productive. The children are screaming with fun and bursting with health.The animals are alert and tolerant of humans. Even the chickens and ducks were unfazed by my approach.
Each person has well-defined chores and activities. The households share food, a laundry, the “bathroom,” and parts of cooking areas. Although they weren’t expecting visitors (there is no phone), everyone appeared freshly scrubbed and was dressed nicely.
Today, we went there with a daughter of the older couple, a woman who lives several hours away and finds it difficult to visit her parents as often as she would like. She brought her two daughters. We brought some modest Xmas food gifts and watched the kids play.
I’d been told it would be a brief visit, but there was an intense conversation among the women that lasted close to an hour. I couldn’t understand any of it because it was in Mayan, but it sounded important and I didn’t want to interrupt, so I wandered around the compound talking to children and small animals.
Below is an uncontrollably wild kitty who attacks and kills all other small animals, including cats. He is tied up. His future is uncertain. He and I got along well.
At night, everyone sleeps in hammocks, but during the daytime, the hammocks are tied up overhead to make sitting space for the living room. The chairs and tables are all hand made from pieces of timber.
Notice the hose in the background of the above picture. Although almost all the villages now have “agua potable,” what they do not have is pipes running from the central water pump to the homes. The water goes to the houses through a series of rubber hoses and there are nests of them everywhere.
While I walked around, playing with the kids, taking pictures, petting dangerous cats (just to prove that I was a cat whisperer), I was getting hungrier by the moment as it was by now after 2 p.m. However, the conversation inside the house was nothing if not more animated than when it had begun some time ago.
As my friend (the daughter) explained to me later, the topic of concern was that the old guy, the 90 year-old patriarch, had wandered off into the selva (forest) recently and was gone for two days and one night. The family feared he had died of exposure as it had been an unusually cold night. The State police joined family and friends searching for him and finally located him on the second day, about five miles from his home, deep in the jungle. He was sitting peacefully against a tree, none the worse for wear except that his shirt was ripped to shreds by the rough foliage.
This was not the first time this had happened. I remembered a similar episode about a year ago. No one in the family thought that old Sr. Tun was losing his mind or that he was depressed. They accepted that he loved the selva and happily walked into it, open to anything that could have happened to him there. Of course, they are concerned that they will eventually lose him this way, but realize that this is what he may want to do. When he was found, by one of his other sons, he smiled and said, “I wasn’t afraid.”
Sr. Tun didn’t participate in the conversation the day we visited and seemed to feel sad that he had caused so much concern.
After our visit, we had lunch at the dependably fabulous Restaurante Tutul Xiu in Mani which was mobbed and as delicious as always.