Acaponeta – Chapter 2 (Click this link to read Part 1)
Backpack in place, dodging through the throngs of travelers, I finally found myself outside the roofless bus station, looking for the village church. The constant clanging of the massive bells from the cathedral’s twin towers easily marked my destination.
Usually the town square can be found adjacent to or nearby the church.
Encountering friendly shy smiles, curious stares, and children running to their mamas, I made the best of it, nodding hola to everyone I passed. The whispers and giggling behind, reminding me, that this was not a tourist hot spot.
Sure enough, the church faced the square.
I had a few minutes to spare even though the ’45 minute bus ride’ was nearly two hours.
Fortunately, I had left early.
The main square,- ‘zocalo or jardin,’ – can be found in all Mexican cities and most towns.
I prefer jardin, meaning garden. The jardin is the heart of the pueblo.
No, I’m wrong about that.
The people are the heart…….. and the jardin is where they cheerfully go to all be together.
Sauntering over to the center of the square, climbing the steps to the top of the empty gazebo (mirador), and dropping my pack, I was able to take full advantage of the view offered. A panorama of the jardin and surrounding area.
I knew that whatever direction Roberto chose to approach from I would have little trouble spotting him. Or for that matter, him finding me, as I was dead center and elevated, and, yes, a little different looking than the town folk.
While waiting, I took in the day to day activities that make Mexican pueblos, as this one, such a joy to be in.
The stairs of the mirador face directly toward the church. I could see all the way inside. Something is usually going on in Mexican churches. Today was no different. I sat on the top step and took it all in.
There was a sizable crowd of maybe forty gathered in front of the altar. Men, women, and little kids all dressed in their finery. At least that many more were kneeling in the front pews. The priest was leading everyone in lovely song. Even the little ones, sweet as angels. I couldn’t understand any of it but that didn’t interfere with taking delight in every heavenly note.
Melodic. Their pure soft singing voices were having a calming effect on me. I was feeling a little drowsy. The music, mid day sun, gentle comforting breeze, all slowly lulling me to sleep. Sliding my pack underneath my head I lay down right on that top step and peacefully took a pleasant little voyage into dreamland.
The sound followed me into my slumber. Faint and blurry background music………………
…………..Child angels fluttered about me, smaller than sparrows. I was floating over the beach at Novillero, sunlight warming my soul, my angels by my side, humming a tune composed in heaven. I flew over the ocean, circling and diving, all in slow motion.
Wanting to go faster, I did. Soaring into the clouds, then swooping down within a few feet of the surf. Arching upward, back into the tropical sky at the extreme final, dreamy second.
Exhilarated, I dove again. Faster, braver now! I was a missile heading straight for the ocean, loving it. Just as I arched my body I felt the warm water splash across my face. Flying into the wispy clouds, the spray stayed with me. As if the sea were chasing me…………
………….I was waking up.
My face felt wet.
The singing was much louder and very close now. I heard shuffling, sensing people all around me.
I opened both eyes with a start!
Surrounded. All I could see were the pressed pant legs of many men. The chubby calves (and some rather shapely) of women wearing lovely dresses and their shiny high heel shoes. And, the children, boys in their suits and girls in their fanciest dresses. In the midst of all this I spotted a white robe just touching the floor.
Convinced I was no longer dreaming, I followed that robe upward. The wearer, none other than the same priest that I had seen earlier at the altar. He was blessing the group and gently sprinkling holy water everywhere, droplets landing on my face.
So, the sea wasn’t chasing me!
Confused, as you might imagine, trying to determine how I ended up in the church, I sat up and groggily looked around.
I was not in the church but still on the top step!
The ceremony I earlier witnessed within the cathedral had for some reason transferred to the jardin. Everyone was now crowded into the mirador and I was dead center of the whole thing. People filled the platform and the stairs, politely taking little or no notice of me. Occasionally someone would steal a glance my way but then quickly averted their eyes when I looked toward them. It almost seemed that they were embarrassed………..or pissed off. I couldn’t tell.
I had to think clearly about this for a moment. I gave my head a shake and turned toward the priest hoping to catch a little more of the blessing to help wash the cobwebs away. Either he had used all of the water or that part of the service was over. The singing had also ceased as the priest seemed to be completing his ceremony. I was slightly befuddled, to say the least.
I heard a baby cry. Seeking the source of the sound, my gaze led to a young couple standing to the side of the white robed priest . The woman held a child, no more than a few months old, close to her bosom. The baby was wrapped in a splendid long white blanket, aglow, as it absorbed the golden rays of the sun. Pride and true happiness beaming from the faces of both young parents. Congratulatory handshakes and embraces all around.
I stood up. I needed to get out of there. Now!
I felt terrible, intruding on this blessed event. As I bent to pick up my pack the priest approached me. Inches away.
Thoughts, rapidly racing back to my Catholic school days. I was standing in front of my grade seven teacher, Father Hurley, about to be disciplined for breaking the church window. I was so close to a full blown panic attack that my legs were shaking, my palms were sweating, and a low unpleasant growl was developing within the depth of my stomach.
The Mexican Padre was looking straight into my eyes when he broke into a huge grin, and said in perfect English.
“Welcome to Acaponeta , my son.”
I was stunned. Stumbling I responded meekly “Thank you, Father.”
The good Padre then told me that the parents and family of the baby would like to offer their apologies for disturbing my nap. And, he was sincere.
It was Roberto.
He was smiling and giving me a ‘what have you been up to’ look, or maybe not. My mind was still a little loco.
Nevertheless, I was very happy to see him, hoping with his help I could escape from this embarrassment. With my honor!
Not to be. I didn’t know it then but my time in Acaponeta was just beginning, and would not end for another twenty four hours.
Roberto and the Padre shook hands and lightly embraced. Immediately, rapid machine-gun blasts of Spanish volleying between them, hardly a breath. Although my brain hadn’t quite caught up, I was picking out a few pieces of the conversation.
I recognized words like gringo (followed by laughter). Fiesta (more chuckles) and I think a few others, but not so sure. Closely observing their body language as well, this is what I came up with.
The gringo (me) did something funny.
There was going to be a party and it would be fun.
My Spanish vocabulary was expanding!
When they had finished their chat, Roberto turned to me, held up his index finger and thumb almost touching, with a little space between. The Mexican ‘just a second’ sign. He then went to mingle with guests, shaking hands, hugging, and laughing with everyone.
It was a joyful occasion.
The Padre was now with the parents of the baby and while speaking they would sometimes stop, glance my way, shake their heads, or nod. The conversation seemed to be in a good nature, nevertheless, I was feeling a little paranoid. When you cannot understand what people are saying, and you know it is about you, many things come to mind. Not all of them good.
The priest beckoned me over. Nervous, I joined them. In his flawless English he introduced himself. His name: Padre Miguel Angel. I told him my name was Michael as well. We shook hands and as we did he said “tocayos!” My puzzled look prompted him to explain the meaning of the word.
“Here in our country when two people share the same name they are ‘tocayos’ – ‘namesakes’.”
Liked that. It was something to take back home with me.
My anxiety was dissipating. I was making new friends and feeling more at ease now.
Padre Miguel introduced me to the parents and the recently baptized infant. I was feeling a little awkward so I made goofy baby sounds and stupid faces, tickling the little chin. Mama in one swift motion held out the child and put it into my arms. With little time to react, I hoped that they hadn’t notice how close I came to dropping the little tyke.
It felt kind of nice. Warmed me inside.
Through my ‘tocayo’ I learned that the infant was three months old and her name was ‘Ariana’ meaning ‘She is very holy’. At that wonderful moment looking at the innocent light that shone from her little brown eyes, I truly believed she was.
Totally absorbed by the cute little rascal it took a moment for me to realize that her parents were no longer standing with me. In a state of semi-panic I looked around for them. I spotted them wandering through the crowd cheerfully greeting everyone. Very trusting, I thought.
Padre Miguel gave me an overview of the ceremony stating how important the day was. The baptism was held in the church and the parents requested that a blessing of the family and friends take place in the mirador on such a beautiful and special day. That’s when and where I, ‘el turista’, unknowingly joined the service.
As he was recounting the day, cheerful screams and laughter suddenly diverted our attention.
One of the guests was at the railing of the mirador throwing coins over the side to the children below. Padre Miguel explained that it was the bolo. The godfather (padrino) was tossing the change. A Mexican tradition at a baptism. When thrown as such, outside the church, it would bring good luck to the baby and her family. The kids were loving it!
He went on to say that it was the wish of the family that I join them in the celebration to follow, at their home.
“After all,” he said, through a grin, “you were a special guest at the ceremony today!”
Grandma, I’m guessing that’s who it was, took the little one away from me. I was a little reluctant to give her up but I had to talk to Roberto about this further development, concerning the invitation.
Roberto, through the Padre, stated that we were invited and it would be impolite to not attend.
And that, amigos, was that!
We were going to a party.
Part 2 – cont’d next week ……..
The diversity of Mexico and the people’s heart, spirit and soul has attracted Michael Osias to visit Mexico extensively over the past 40+ years. ‘Home is Where the Heart Is’