02 October 2008

A clean sweep...

Yesterday when I came to work I saw that our "portero" (gatekeeper) was sweeping the walk with a new "escoba" (broom). I say a "new" broom only because it is slightly different than the one that he was using a couple weeks ago and not because it is actually purchased "new" from the store. In reality, purchasing everything from the store seems to be more of an American trait than a Mexican thing. In Mexico a lot of people tend to purchase only those things that they can't make for themselves. In all the years that I have been here I do not remember our portero ever using a factory made broom nor do I recall that he ever asked for one. Nevertheless, the sidewalk is always clean. His broom never looks exactly the same either. He just takes an old mop handle that he uses over and over again and attaches some branches that he saves whenever he trims the shrubs and bushes. Sometimes he fastens the branches with henequén (sisal binder twine) and sometimes he uses rafia (cheap twine often made from shredded and twisted plastic) or even bits of discarded welding wire. This time he used a bit of wire and electrical tape.

The other day the outside light beside our front door quit working. I took it down to fix it but I noticed that the wire behind the socket had broken and there was no practical way to take the fixture apart. It was one of those things that are made to discard and not repair. No problem. I gave this seemingly unfixable thing to our neighborhood fixit man and he gave it back to me as good as new in exchange for only twenty pesos. I don't know how he did it and I don't care. I only know that now it works fine. Last week I took my favorite pair of boots to the shoe repair man. His shop is the most disorganized mess that I have ever seen and is literally overflowing with bits of leather and home made tools and all kinds of bottles and cans of glue and shoe polish and who knows what else. Nevertheless I picked up my boots two days later with new soles and heels and they were so shiny that I could see my face in them and it cost only about one quarter of what a new pair of boots would cost.

I seems to me like I am experiencing again the life that I knew in my old neighborhood in Chicago while growing up in the 1950's. Things were either made at home or they were made or repaired by local people who were longstanding citizens of the community. Getting things repaired and using things over and over has almost disappeared in the American consumer society where anything that isn't disposable is almost "un-American. We need to spend, spend, spend, to keep the financial fires glowing and growing. Perhaps now that the current financial crisis has almost put those fires out we can get back to our roots and dip back into that pool of American ingenuity and resourcefulness that I knew as a child. The more that I live here in Mexico the more I realize how many things that I really didn't need and don't miss having. Without the burden of so many "things" to care for and worry about I find it much easier "to keep peace in my heart".

7 comments:

Steve Cotton said...

"peace in my heart" is a great goal. I know what you mean about Things. As I sort through my Stuff, I realize how many truly useless things I have bought and kept over the years.

glorv1 said...

I too remember using everything till it could no longer walk so to speak. When we got holes in shoes, we patched them up, when we were down to the last milk, we mixed water in it to make it last. That broom looks vaguely familiar. I remember there was this older woman when I was a little girl, and she lived on the ranch which belonged to my Grandfather, and she used to sweep outside with something that looks like what you have pictured. I used to watch her and she would smile and keep on sweeping. How memories are brought back, so sweet. Thank you for sharing.

Babs said...

GREAT blog and so true! I'm amazed at the resourcefulness of the Mexicans. They are TRULY human recyclers........I have a broom like that in my kitchen! I love it.........

Joe said...

VERY nice post, Bob. It was a pleasure to read.

YayaOrchid said...

I agree with the above comments. This is such a sweet post, it takes us back to more carefree times, when life wasn't so much about 'things'. And all because of a picture of a broom. Imagine that!

Alfredo said...

¡Qué bonita escoba! Y tan útil que debe ser. Mi abuela las hacía sin el palo. Eran cortas y también había hechas de popotillo. Las de popotillo eran especiales para el interior de la casa. ¿Ha visto una "lanilla"? Ojalá que si.

Billie said...

Bob, I agree. The Mexicans can fix anything and I often see tools that they have made to do a special job.

Selling our stuff (lots of stuff) in the USA and moving to Mexico has been good for my soul. I feel that we live so much more in touch with the earth let leave a smaller footprint.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.