19 July 2008

Don Concho

I would like to tell you about a very good friend. His name is Concepción Cisneros Rangel (cohn-sep-see-OHN, sees-NEY-rohs, RAHN-hell) but everyone calls him Don Concho (Dohn COHN-choh). The name "Concho" is a hypocoristic or "pet name" for the name Concepción which can be either a man's name or a woman's name in Mexico. A woman by the name of Concepción would be called "Conchita". His parents gave him the name Concepción when he was born on December 8th, 1929 because December 8th is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Concho is our neighborhood's "velador" or watchman. He could be compared to what they call a "superintendent" or "doorman" in the apartment buildings of New York. He watches over us and our homes from about 9:30 in the morning to about 8:pm, six days a week. When we arrive or depart he opens and closes our gates for us. He takes deliveries for us, waters our flowers for us, shoos away people who don't belong, and keeps us informed as to what is happening in general in our little community. Each of the neighbors share the cost of his salary which amounts to about eighty dollars per week plus lunch and soft drinks. I am really lucky because I live in the middle of the block and I have a nice shade tree at the edge of the property and Don Concho has made that his duty station.

My friend is an amazing fellow. He is seventy-eight years old and as spry as a seventeen year old. He has been at this job for the past thirteen years and has hardly missed a day with the few exceptions that he has been to the doctor. He is so healthy that he doesn't see a doctor very much and more often than not he uses herbal medicine to cure whatever ails him. He comes from a nearby community called Lo de Juárez which is part of the Municipality of Irapuato (State of Guanajuato) and is home to about 3,949 inhabitants. It was formally a large estate or "rancho" that was later turned into an "ejido" or collective farm. Don Concho had a wife named Josefa Villanueva but she died after a long illness about twenty years ago. He has three married daughters who live in Lo de Juárez and they fuss over him just as much if not more than my neighbors and I. His daughters names are Antonia, Fernanda, and Manuela and they each have several children and many of their children have children so Don Concho is the family patriarch. I appreciate this man so much that I just had to write about him. He is my councilor on everything from herbal medicine to weather, religion, food, fiestas, politics, and everything else imaginable. He reads the paper every morning while things are still quiet and he always knows what's going on. Even the little kids sense that he is special and they always greet him with affection and respect. I have never seen him angry and he continually strives to keep peace in his heart. You will always find him at the seven o'clock Sunday morning mass where he takes communion and I am sure that he prays for everyone that he knows and also many others whom he doesn't even know. Who says that angels don't walk among us? I thank God for Don Concho. I hope he lives to be at least one hundred years.

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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.