What jovial and happy times! Marcos took me to Maruca’s home, a three story edificethat radiated of warmth, laughter, music, and good food. Latin music emanated. There was such a Chiapas heart to it, a kitchen full of spices and brewing pots, colorful tapestries and collected pillows strewn over sofas around a fireplace, and eight friends just barely containing our cheerfulness and chuckling and talking about things in life. Even before entering, you could see all the lights inside which illuminated our long path of stairs from her driveway to her home about 100 feet below. I was told she had a beautiful singer’s voice: soothing, soft and full of character—and it was. She was the kind of mother that brightened the room and the most attentive host, and once you enter home, she declares, “es tu casa.”

Mexicans have the *greatest* talent of transforming any melody and song in the world stage into sweet lullabies for children. Music from the Spanish courts, music from American hits, music from poetry, all become raw material for mothers and fathers to delight their children. And creativity comes from the grassroots, that is, from everybody. Drawings, art, poetry, these things come from the People. And so, with all the familiar songs, we chorused over guitar and drums, pinot noir and mezcal, to baby Ian—the doted baby from an Italian-Mexican couple.

I met Cesar again and they call him “Gallo” and he’s a real charming guy. You never know when he’ll stand up and announce a song. He always wears a cowboy hat and talks with a deliberate accent like Mexican might, referring to the Yucatán and to other parts of the country, and breaking into song. He had twinkling eyes and his face was full of smile lines as he explained all these things in his life to me. Over so many simultaneous conversations he’s the kind of sparkling personality anybody would want to show you around and laugh and sing.

Pau, from Madrid, a very gentle Madrileño with her Spanish ‘th’ accent. We got along so well, and since she is staying for a month, I look forward seeing her again. She intently studied Chinese in Madrid, for reasons not obvious to me that people think the culture is so profoundly unfamiliar, the philosophy and worldview seeming so fascinating. (I suppose when you grow up in California and these cultures are simply an integral part of who you are, you don’t find them so drastically unique.)

Juau and his wife were from Los Angeles, and because of them and adorable baby Ian, everyone had songs to sing and banter. Very sweet couple and great company to be around. They were among the only ones less insistent that I was ‘Chinese’ and equally ‘American’ but I think it’s sometimes more fascinating to ask about my Chinese heritage. And then there was the German Sheona whose blue eyes betrayed his naturally perfect Spanish. He sang in German too.

So we had an aromatic stew of poultry, olives, raisins and spices…over a pile of Spanish rice and a fresh salad of the ripest red tomatoes. There were breads and cheeses and lime-ade. This volcanic land is so fertile, the food demands to be savored. Vibrantly. And they served me and I served them, and we passed the evening together with such happiness and laughter that I don’t remember if there was a happier time this week.


My favorite song was “Caracol” apparently famous, but probably because of the EZLN! Here is the quote that fits today.

“Hoy más que nunca la alegría es un artículo de primera necesidad, tan urgente como el agua o el aire. Nadie nos va a regalar este derecho de todos. Es preciso pelearlo: contra el propio miedo, el miedo a romper la costumbre de la pena, y contra los administradores de la tristeza nacional, que le sacan el jugo y venden las lágrimas. Pelearlo, digo, y no por la gente, sino con ella y desde ella.”–Eduardo Galeano

Spanish Words of the Day, to call someone a:
amigo” friend | “cuate” buddy | “gallo” guy