The Piedra Rahada

Distant Horizions

Distant Horizions

 

I’ve written many difficult posts for vsvevg: posts about loss, illness, failure, disillusionment, weakness, and our struggles to live up to our principles; but this is one of the most difficult I have had to write.

Felipe and I are leaving the Piedra Rahada.

King was killed one month after he came to us, and we finally decided that though we learned not to judge(mostly), though we had accepted that our ideals were the antitheses of La Tigra’s, we were exhausted by the sorrow and hardship the beliefs and actions of our community have caused us.

I have been grieving for five years over Elvis, Jake, Jackie, then Lilly and now King.  It is not only these acts of cruelty, but a pervasive negativity that promotes fraud, deception and the belief that to take advantage of one’s neighbor is a good thing.  It sometimes felt like we were living with the IK.

I don’t blame the community, we’re different, they have their own path, but we can no longer be consumed by our inability to conform to norms we can never accept.

We stayed much longer than was good for us in many ways—because we love our family and the Piedra Rahada, but as we buried King, we looked into each other’s eyes and without words— we knew we were done. We decided we would let the Piedra Rahada go if that was what it required, though it caused us as much sorrow as all the other losses.

Then my friend called…

Felipe is now with me at Rancho Santana. We will work here contributing to the farm to table concept, utilizing the skills and ideals we worked so hard to manifest at the PDR. The revenue from this challenging, interesting work will provide the capital to build in Tepotzlan, a community more in tune with our mindset. We will not need to sell the Piedra Rahada. We are working to save it.

I doubt we will ever live full time near La Tigra again, but we will have the Piedra Rahada to nurture and visit as we choose. Though sadly, without a dog.

I considered shutting vsvevg down, but then remembered it’s really about Felipe and my journey with our land and our commitment to it. Our time in Nicaragua will be a part of that process.  It’s the perfect situation for us and I’m much more excited about it than this writing implies. Certainly I’m was excited about Felipe’s arrival. We drank a glass of bubbly and toasted the Piedra Rahada, our friend who gave us this redemptive opportunity, and our wonderful new adventure.

Moechi

 Moecha, my sole survivor, La Tigra’s oldest dog(they had no idea a dog could live so long—she’s ten) is currently residing with our ever generous friend Larry. We will bring her to Nicaragua when we figure out how to get her here, until then she is safe and happy eating chicken and hanging with Larry and his entourage of rescued dogs and cats.

 

 

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To Kill a Rattlesnake

Abby and Felipe 

I fell in love with Felipe for his stories. Years later I realized, as I listened to his mother, whose stories have not been filtered through the knowledge of letters, and are redolent with place, where he’d learned his craft.

We met in Chicago eighteen years ago. He was undocumented, working as a bus boy, I was a server in the same restaurant. As I got to know him, he told me stories of his home town, a tiny village in the Sierra Huautla mountains. To an untraveled Midwestern girl, stories tinged in accent, spilling from a beautiful man lips, made La Tigra sound like the most exotic place on earth.

As he drug the anaconda out from under the mulberry bush last week, I laughed as I thought of my past fascination and naiveté regarding La Tigra. I recalled this story he’d told me many years ago, and I asked him to speak it to me again. I didn’t realize until this telling that the events had taken place where we now live.

The remains of the huamuchil.

The remains of the huamuchil.

 

When I was a little boy, about six years old, my family was hired to clean peanuts here at the Piedra Rahada, it was owed by my brother -in -law at the time. We were all there, under the big huamuchil that died last year, it was a very old tree even then.

My brothers were bringing the plants from the field and my mother and sisters and I beat the roots with a mocho, the back of a broken off machete, to knock off the peanuts. At that time you could still drink the water from the creeks, when we ran out, it was my job to fetch more.

I went  to the place where there is water all year round, between the roots of the big amates and parota, you know the place, all the animals drink there still. As I walked up the creek bed I saw a big rattle snake on its way for water too. I backed away and when there was some room between us I called to my family, “There’s a really big snake down here!” It was about the size of the masaquata I killed today.

My mother came down into the creek bed and when she saw the snake, even though I was pretty spooked by it, she said “Oh that’s not so big! This is what you do. ” She began to look for a big branch.  “The stick has to be dry”, she said, “because the venom is like electricity and can travel up a green branch.”

She chopped off a dead branch with her machete. (She still always carries a machete.)She walked up along side the snake, who didn’t even turn to look at her, and smacked it on the head. Dead. She picked it up, went back to work, and I went for water.

Where the wild animals drink.

Where the wild animals drink.

Soco butchered the snake. The meat was sold as a cancer remedy, and the skin for decoration, unless it was damaged. Damaged skin was used as a preventive medicine for chicken plague. She kept a small piece in their water dish to help keep them from falling prey to illness.

I wondered how Felipe felt about his mother pish-shawing his fear of a large venomous snake.

“I felt good,” he told me,” my mother always made me feel safe, like I could take care of things myself, that there was nothing to fear.”

I can’t think of a better testament to good parenting.

He still talks good story.

More Medical Mayhem!

Selfie with Nebulizer and Fake Lips

Selfie with Nebulizer and Fake Lips

The bad news: I am behind in my recitations because I’ve been missing my walks due to severe asthma and allergies. Even talking caused coughing fits, and weirdly, I can’t memorize without speaking the poem aloud.
The good news! It provides another opportunity to tell you about México Medical System .
In my usual, let’s wait until I’m almost dead before we go the doctor mode(I think I channel some stubborn old Midwestern ancestor ) Felipe and I ended up on a forty minute, midnight mad dash to emergency on Sunday. A fleeting moment of romance pierced the terror as my gallant husband carried me to the car; for I assure you it is terrifying not being able to breathe with the hospital over an hour away.
Of course, there was a huge storm threatening, relampago flashing, tronar crashing as if the devil was chasing us to drag me to hell, and of course, the bocho had a dangerously low tire and an ominous screeching emanating from the drive shaft. I was in my mismatched pajamas, unable to breathe when seated, I knelt in the bocho’s filthy floor (it had recently been full of chicken shit , don’t ask)) with my head handing out the window like a gasping golden retriever. I didn’t even know if Felipe knew where we were going. Fortunately, he did.
We went to clinic I visited when I needed treatment for fibroid tumors . It’s open for overnight emergency services, and is only forty minutes away. I was on an IV(the most painfully administered one I’ve ever received, bless her heart) in let’s say… seven minutes from curb to faint inducing needle insertion(and I am not a baby about these things folks ). Approximately twenty years ago, I visited Northwestern University Emergency room for a high fever. If memory serves, I waited two hours on the floor(again, unable to sit up) of the waiting room for a bed in the hall way.

Just for fun, let’s compare of the cost of these two visits.
México— Emergency Sunday 1am private clinic visit.
40 pesos about $3.75

U. S. A. —Entering the Northwestern University Emergency room.
$650.00

México—Treatment, including multiple check-ins from a very nice female doctor, five medications and prescriptions for two medications they didn’t have on hand.
860 pesos about 90 bucks

U.S.A. —I don’t recall the exact treatment at Northwestern but there was blood work, a potassium shot, and intravenous fluids. The doctor was certain I was bulimic; I was not. He was nice about it, but its unnerving to have your doctor trying to wheedle a confession to a psychological disordered out of you when you’re delirious from fever.
The cost was around 1500 dollars; I think I was there about 5 hours. Fortunately, I had insurance. My out of pocket cost was aprox. 600 dollars.

The day after our hell-bent trip to Maternidad de Paris(tres chic), I visited La Tigra’s free clinic. They supplied me with the prescriptions I wasn’t able to get the night before and loaned me a nebulizer, all free of charge.

Felipe thinks it’s ridiculous to compare the U.S. and México s medical systems because the economies are completely different. Example: Minimum wage in Chicago 8.25 an HOUR, Minimum wage in Morelos 65 peso(about five bucks) A DAY, he argues. Not to mention the difference in services available at Midwestern and Maternidad de Paris. I argue( illogically) “Yeah, but we still pay $5.75 for a gallon of gas in México!”(I just like to throw that in when I have a chance.)
Still, I find it questionable that the charge for something as simple as entering the building should be so disparate: three dollars and seventy five cents…opposed to six hundred and fifty dollars. Really?
Am I an economics dolt, or do you agree it’s unreasonable to charge a person 650 dollars to lay in the floor for two hours?

P.S. Just so you don’t think I think everything about México Medical system is peachy, I did decide against the karate chop procedure suggested at my first visit to de Paris. Instead, I applied Edgar Cayce’s castor oil pack remedy , and the Depo-Provera(gasp!) they proscribed. I no longer suffer symptoms from the tumors.

Tacos de Chili Relleno(sort of)

 

Taco de Chili Poblano vsvevg (1)This is the last in my series of vegetarian tacos . As usual I had to tweak the recipe. Generally chili poblano is charred and cut into strips, for tacos. Sometimes bathed in crema(Méxican sour cream)* for rajas in crema, or, a la Méxicana, with tomato and onion, with the poblano as the chili portion of this basic recipe. For the full blown rellenos taco, the chili is stuffed with cheese and batter fried, then wrapped in a tortilla. I am not afraid of fat, but a deep fat fried anything in a tortilla is a little heavy even for me. So because I love rellenos and portable food, I devised this slightly lighter version.
Tacos Rellenos de Queso Frito, con Salsa Ranchero
Charred, and peeled chili poblano, cut in half. Each chili will make two tacos.
Queso cincho , ar any cheese that fries well; kasseri , provolone are good choices.
Vegetable oil
Tortillas
Heat the oil, and fry the cheese until brown outside and creamy inside, warm the chili in the pan as you do this. Place the cheese in the chili and the chili in the tortilla. Eat immediately, fried cheese gets tough when it cools. Dip in salsa ranchera.
Salsa Ranchera
This recipe comes from, you guessed it, Diana Kennedy’s, The Essential Cuisines of Méxican! She mentions the debate about whether or not to broil the tomatoes; I’m with her, I prefer them broiled. This salsa is standard with Huevos Rancheros, Queso Flameado and Chilies Rellenos. It’s a good standard recipe to have in ones repertoire. It makes about a cup.
One pound roma tomatoes broiled until some of the skin is blackened
4 serrano chilies charred, I do this in a pan with oil, again to blacken the skin
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
2 Tbles vegetable oil
2 Tbles finely chopped white onion
½ tsp salt, or to taste
Blend the tomatoes, chilies and garlic until fairly smooth.
Heat the oil and fry the onion gently without browning, until translucent. Add the blended ingredients and salt and cook over a fairly brisk heat for about five minutes, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the pan until the sauce is reduced a little and well-seasoned.
Probecho!

Taco de Chili Poblano vsvevg (2)
These are the links to the rest of my vegetarian taco recipes; in the case you missed one 
Tacos de Haba(fava vean)
Tacos de Nopal(cactus paddle)
Tacos de Hongo(mushroom)
Tacos Dorado(ricota)
Tacos de Papa (potato)

*I mention crema in several of these posts. You can buy Méxican style crema, but it’s overpriced. The most authentic way is to make it by adding 1 Tbles sour cream to 1 cup of unpasteurized heavy cream and let it sit in out for a couple of days. It’s pretty warm here so it doesn’t take mine more than a day usually, but be sure your crema is in a warm place, say near a pilot light. Then, pull the heavy top portion back and pour off any whey that may be at the bottom, add some salt and refrigerate.
Or, you can use regular sour cream, which is perfectly delicious. I hope you enjoyed my veggie taco series. Our next foray into the authentic cuisine of Morelos features– Chicharron!