On Saturday morning, we stopped by Don Hippolito’s to conduct a greenhouse interview, but no one was home. Dona Sofia came by and explained to us that Hippolito had two houses and that he would be at his other house in the late afternoon.
So instead, we decided to sit down with Dona Sofia and learn more about the community. She mentioned that the students wanted to paint and play music, things that aren’t currently taught at school. Growing up, extracurricular activities were things that my parents encouraged me to get involved in. I had the privilege of growing up with dance and music, disciplines that were, in some sense, a given. Sofia’s emphasis on music and art in Chiteje really showed me the importance of having an outlet for expression—something that a lot of kids here grow up without.
When we stopped by the tienda to get some water, Eduardo had some more Otomi history for us. He explained Otomi as a mix of Aztec and Mayan cultures. Similarly to so many cultures today, it was becoming more misplaced and confused through every generation. Though Eduardo made an active effort to learn Otomi, most of the current generation can neither speak nor understand the language. Here are some words we learned:
Huexolot – bird
Tlaloc – Rain God
Xochitl – flower
Coatlicue – God of the Aztecs
Huitzilopochtli – Warrior God and Protector of the Aztecs
We thanked Eduardo for the Otomi lesson and asked for directions to Hippolito’s house—the house at the third post on the left. When we got to Hippolito’s, we called out his name, but there was no answer. Since it didn’t seem like anyone was home, we asked others on the street if this was, in fact, Hippolito’s home. Eventually, an old man came outside. But when we described our greenhouse project, he seemed quite confused. No matter what we said, he just didn’t quite seem to understand what we were asking. We were so confused too. How could this man be the one that was given a greenhouse? Thankfully, due to the aid of his daughter, we were relieved to find out that after all this time, we had the wrong Hippolito. She kindly pointed us in the direction of the other Hiopolito’s home, and we continued on our way. But, when we got to Hippolito’s other home, we learned, in fact, that he was at his other house. By this time, we were too tired to be frustrated and instead found the whole situation hysterically funny. Melissa had told us that Don Hippolito would be hard to find, but we didn’t understand just how difficult it would be.
On Sunday morning breakfast was accompanied by ear-bursting Metallica music, a distinct change from the banda music we heard during the week. Somehow the culture of “nonconformistas” that Eduardo described to us seemed out of place among the rolling hills and cornfields.
Later that morning, we met with Francisco about the greenhouse construction at the school. We went over our construction plans, and then Francisco offered to show us his crop of cempasúchil, an orange flower used for coloring clothes and food. Francisco used to grow corn. When I asked him why he decided to start growing cempasúchil, he mentioned “Es una empresa,” “it’s a business.” The transformation from corn to cempasúchil symbolizes a shift from tradition to international industrial influences. The freedom of the fields contrasts the greater influence of the international agricultural business.
I have incredible respect for Francisco’s dedication to improve his life and that of his family. Not only does he work his fields of cempasúchil, he also has a regular job in construction, tends a greenhouse, and runs a part-time plumbing business!
In the afternoon, the sky erupted into a lightning storm. While Judy, Marcela, and I decided to work inside for a while, little girls continued to play as if the lightning was nothing out of the ordinary. Later, the moon rose a deep yellow. The light show seemed to signify something beautiful and mysterious, yet here, was a normal part of everyday life.
I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings, when we head to Amealco to pick up greenhouse supplies! Hasta luego!