23 October 2007

Don Felix

We are going to celebrate “El Día de los Muertos” (the Day of the Dead) here in Mexico on November 2nd so it is time to make preparations by setting up a small altar in the house on which to place photos and remembrances of all of our dead relatives and friends. My gal Gina and I were discussing this yesterday and she told me that we mustn’t forget Don Felix. I don’t think she ever mentioned this person to me before so I asked her to tell me about him.

She said that when she was about six years old they lived down the street from a little store called an "abarrotes" which is like the little “Mom and Pop” grocery stores that used to be so prevalent in the United States.

The man who ran the store was loved by everybody in the neighborhood and his name was Señor Felix Murillo but everybody called him Don Felix. The word "Don" (pronounced Dohn) is like the word "Mister" in English. It is a term of respect. Don Felix and his wife lived in a little apartment above the store and everyday at about 2: pm, as is the custom here, they closed the store and went upstairs to eat lunch. After a long lunch period (as is also the custom here) they would go back downstairs and reopen the store and Don Felix would sit in a chair out by the sidewalk and doze in the shade of the awning until the kids came by from school. One particular day he came down from lunch and he didn't feel so good and he got worse and worse until finally two of his sons put him in his old pickup truck and drove him to the hospital. Like lightening the word went out by the jungle telegraph that Don Felix was sick and had gone to the hospital and everybody in the neighborhood was buzzing about it and worried about Don Felix, especially the kids because he was always so kind and generous with them.

When school let out, Gina, who was in first grade at the time, was walking home and she saw Don Felix's truck go by with one of his sons on either side of him and Don Felix sitting in the middle. Gina ran to the store to see Don Felix and make sure that he was okay. When she got there Don Felix´s sons were taking him out of the truck. He had died about a half hour after getting to the hospital. His sons had quickly found a doctor who was willing to sign a death certificate that said "natural causes" because if they didn't have a death certificate they couldn't take him back out of the hospital without an autopsy and Mexicans don't like autopsies. To them an autopsy is like desecrating the dead. They brought him home quickly so that they could put him in his bed before rigor mortis set in and they sat up with him all night had a mass for him and buried him the next day (as is the law and the custom). When Gina watched them take him out of the truck and put him in his bed she had big tears running down her face and she remembered the words from the song "Mexico Lindo y Querido" which goes:

México lindo y querido,
Si muero lejo de ti
Que digan estoy durmiendo
Y que me trigan aquí..."

"Mexico pretty and beloved,
If I should die far from thee
Oh that they say I am only sleeping
And that they bring me here to you." (paraphrased)

The man who wrote that song was a popular Mexican singer named Jorge Negrete and he died while he was in the United States so they brought him back home to bury him and they sang that song at his funeral. This all happened not long before Don Felix passed away and that is why the song made such an impression with her. She made me promise her right then and there that if she ever died while she was away from Mexico that I would bring her home and I asked her to make the same promise...that I be buried back home in Mexico too.


Unknown said...

I live in the north of Mexico, Mexicali B.C. to be specific. and I have lern a lot from your storys.
When you live in Mexico for so long some time you just dont want to see and your miss the real Mexico and the good thinks and the bad things we have.
I think you have and special talent to express the real Mexican culture with a good critic aye and good humor.

Anonymous said...

Muchas gracias José. It is comments like yours that keep me going. I love Mexico and I try to give an honest description of what I encounter. I leave the touristy things to others and I just try to look for the heart and soul of this great country.

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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.