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Looking out my Backdoor: Dancing to CCR in Español at the Old Folk's Home


March 12, 2020

My friends, who shall remain anonymous, sent me money to donate for them to a good cause of my choice here in Etzatlan. These good folks have visited me several times. They like my little chosen town.

Several years ago a Franciscan friar, a wealthy man, sold all he had and built a lovely hacienda among the trees to house those who need special care, the aged who can no longer live with family as well as the disabled in body, the infirm in mind, both men and women.

One hears stories like this, often with healthily skeptical ears. This story happens to be true. Not only that, if you and I were hungry, we could go there to be fed, no questions asked. True story.

Leo’s cousin, Oscar, a man whom I know, works there. We consulted with Oscar about what might be the best way to spend my friend’s pesos.

Oscar suggested that we get things that continually need to be replaced, personal products, cleaning supplies, and basic foods such as beans and rice. Oh, and, everybody loves ice cream.

This morning Leo and I went shopping. We chose to spend the money in small tiéndas, spreading the benefits to the neighborhood vendors rather than shop in the big stores.

Interestingly, when we told the tiénda owners our story, when they learned where the products were going to be used, they each piled on discounts. We gained at least 20 percent cost value over what pesos we actually spent.

But what we gained most was gratitude for what we were doing, hugs, thanks and blessings at every stop.

We chose soaps for laundry, kitchen and bath, bleach, hand soap, shampoos, combs and brushes for hair, razors, toothbrushes, dental cream, toilet tissue, lotions, adult diapers, and other items, all in great quantity.

By this time the back of Leo’s SUV was squatting close to the ground.

We made two trips, loaded up with rice, cooking oil, beans, eggs, pastas, soup bases, mashed potatoes and other basic cooking necessities, as well as an assortment of brooms, mops, scrub brushes, again carefully making our way, bumper hovering low over the cobblestones. We did not forget the ice cream, having snared eight two-gallon tubs of frozen goodness.

When we delivered the first load of plunder, I got a special treat. While a dozen men emptied the car, I got to tour the Spanish-style hacienda, huge with open hallways, surrounding a great courtyard. Nothing was hidden. I lost my heart in the wing which housed the severely disabled.

Many residents had gathered in the courtyard, sitting in clusters under shade trees, with a beautiful chapel offset in one corner. Residents shook our hands and introduced themselves. Many knew Leo. Particularly memorable to me was the woman dressed in blue with strings of beads, who told me she had lived in Fresno, California, and had been all over, even to Disneyland.

In the short while we were there, several people arrived to spend the day with family, including a woman in a taxi from Tequila, an hour’s drive from here.

While men formed a chain and unloaded our second delivery, a group of young people in the center of the flagstone courtyard, played music, sang and danced with the residents, amidst a great deal of laughter, bouncing and clapping and kicking up their heels to a Spanish-language version of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”

My heart nearly burst.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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