On Becoming an Active Spectator | My Family Travels
Sitting With My cousin

It’s six in the morning.

Today is my last Sunday in Huejuquilla, Jalisco—my birth town—before my family must head home to the United States after having spent the entire month of December here, enjoying the holidays and festivals, reconnecting with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, old friends, and so on.

I find myself sitting by an open door at my grandma’s house, facing the town’s main, time-worn road. Oddly enough, my four-year-old cousin also finds herself here; why that may be, I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that I’ve been feeling exceptionally detached from my native home, so I welcome her company.

It’s half past six.

I get the impression that this is the universal time allotted for one to rid the sidewalk of its dirt, for the women on my grandma’s street all come out to do exactly that; they throw some water, sweep, clean their portion of the sidewalk, and go back inside—I assume, to wait for enough dirt to accumulate so that the next morning they should do it all over again. I’m instantly fond of this process. I look down at my cousin to see if she is too, only she didn’t notice it to the extent that I did. Upon remembering that she is only four and sees this sort of thing every day, I can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if I had been born and raised here. Would I have gotten used to, or even overlooked, this simple act of communal responsibility on behalf of the townswomen if I saw it daily? I certainly wouldn’t hope so. In fact, upon detecting the familiar sweet smell of wet dirt and pavement, combined with the thick heat from the sun, I ascertain that I would much rather prefer to experience this only a few times a year, since it is the rarity of this minute act and peculiar smell in my daily life that lends it a rather singular trait.

It’s noon-ish.

The old men that were conversing and eating peanuts by the handful across the street are long gone. I’m guessing the sun tired them too much. They left the neighborhood lonelier than when they first arrived. Perhaps lonelier were the men, although I noticed that during their daily assembly they seemed to come to life as they contributed to the collective reminiscence of the group.

There was also the noticeable absence of their laughs, which turned to whole-hearted wheezing if the story being told was funny enough. I noticed that their laugh was the contagious type. I was close enough to get a whiff of it for a little while.
The sun is tiring me now, I might take a nap.

It’s a quarter to eight.

I hear the folkloric dancers from neighboring states arrive for the last day of the town’s annual Tetekaneine dance festival. To get to the plaza they must pass by my grandma’s street, so I prepare myself for the swelling of my heart as I admire the tradition embodied in the costumes of each dancer. I think I’ll leave my post by the road and go watch them perform.

It’s nine o’clock sharp.

The night life has come to stir the townspeople, and I am not at my post like I usually am. My home town has too much to offer, especially on a night of tradition like this one. I’d like to consider myself a participating spectator, if I can.

I have the privileges of a paisana (compatriot), yet the freedom and perspective of an awed tourist.

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