Short bios of some of the wonderful people I’ve met in Mexico through Casas por Cristo home-building trips!
Luis was a little boy I met on my first trip to Mexico. He lives in Acuña, and when we went back to visit him last time I was there he was staying with his aunt, but his mother said he still asks about me and about when I and the rest of our group are coming back. We were there on a Casas por Cristo mission trip where we built a house for Luis and his mother Juanita. He’s a very playful little boy, who took goofy pictures of his face with my camera and tried to ride one of his dogs like a horse. It was really great getting to know him, and when Juanita told me how proud he was of his new house after we’d left and how he’d invited all his friends over to show them, I was truly touched.
Pablo was Luis’s cousin. He also lives in Acuña, and I only met him briefly but we were all amused by his unusual bike. He’d taken re-bar to make it taller and quite interesting–we asked him to ride it for us and he mounted it, using the back of a pickup to give him a step up, and rode it with ease. It took a bit of skill both to make the bike and to be able to ride it like that!
Socorro is Luis’s grandmother. Her name means help or relief (especially that of God) in Spanish, and maybe it was just because of her grandmother-liness, but the name really seemed to suit her. She made amazing tamales and soup and took care of us really well while we built a house for her daughter-in-law and grandson. On my first day there I was talking to her and the minister, and they were both surprised when I said I liked the city and how colorful and pretty it was. Then she told me about how both her sons were killed–my Spanish wasn’t good enough to get the whole story, but I replied sympathetically and after that she took a liking to me. She started calling me her “preciosa,” showering me with lots of hugs and serving me first when she handed out her delicious plates of food.
Jessica (pronounced Yeseeca in Spanish) is in the middle of this picture in the pink shirt. She was clearly the leader of this band of neighborhood kids near our build in Juarez. When I was trying to learn all of the kid’s names she took charge and wrote them all down for me. I still have that scrap of paper, preserved in my scrapbook. She lived in a Casas por Cristo house that had been built years before, when she was just a little girl. She showed me the Bible they’d received that they always hand out at the dedication of Casas houses, and I was happy to see it was well-worn and well-used. It held treasured photographs, a few pressed flowers, and drawings she’d done as a little girl. She showed me one drawing that disturbed me at first–of a dead person–but then explained that we have to die to our old selves and become new in Christ. Then she asked if I was a Christian, and I explained that we all were, and that’s why we were down there building a house. It was really a great conversation, and I was happy to see the impact that a previous Casas house had made on this little girl.
On my first day on the build in Juarez, I got heat exhaustion pretty badly. We were there in August and weren’t terribly well hydrated, having spent the last two days in a van driving down. This actually ended up working for good though, because I was able to sit and talk with the kids. I showed them where we were from and Juarez was on the map and really got to know them. I’m a bit better at speaking to kids in Spanish than I am at pounding nails anyways. Above is a picture of three of the children who would live in the house we were building–Yahir, America, and Dulce–and a neighbor boy from across the street, who, when he saw me trying to photograph his puppy, obligingly got it and posed for me. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures.
On our second build in Acuña (my third build overall), we were given the names of the family we were building for, including 9-year-old Alexis. We picked out plenty of girly toys, games, and school supplies (including some pretty awesome Lisa Frank coloring books), only to discover that Alexis was a boy. It was fortunate, however, because we then had gifts to give these two sisters, who lived right behind Alexis’s family’s home. Ingrid and Itzel were very friendly and always around the build site. I really enjoyed talking to them, and I’m told that on the first day, they asked some of the others on the build if we could build them a house too. It was really sad because of course we couldn’t, but we were glad to be able to leave them some toys anyways. They weren’t home when we had the dedication, so we slipped everything through the fence and I wrote “It was nice to meet you. God bless. – The Americans (los estadounidenses in Spanish).” It was, perhaps, an awkward goodbye, but it truly was nice to meet them.
Kids are always my favorite in Mexico, especially for practicing Spanish. They’re so easy to talk to–they speak loudly, use small words, and, unlike adults, don’t pretend to understand you when they don’t. This is 9-year-old Alexis, who, as noted above, is indeed a boy. I didn’t get to talk to him too much (my boyfriend and I were fighting food poisoning or a 24 hour bug–not from Mexico or Mexican food as most would expect, but from American food–and so missed most of two days of the three-day build), but he seemed like a very nice kid. He was kind of quiet and shy, but he struck me as kind of a creative type. He was definitely resourceful too–he used an old Coca Cola cup and a bucket to create a giant castle out of the pile of sand that would later be used to create stucco for the house.
I absolutely love soccer. I’m not the best at it, but I love playing defense and getting in people’s way. It’s such a world-wide game, and I think that’s a large part of what I love about it. Anywhere in the world you can find kids playing soccer on a street corner. And we did, on my first trip to Acuña. Or more accurately, they found us. There was this concrete soccer field (court if it’s concrete?) across the street from the church where we stayed, so the group I was with decided to play a game of soccer. Local kids started watching, and after I invited them to play and some tricky communication about who was on what team, they played with us and definitely kicked our butts. Even the ones only two feet tall were excellent. We played until the outside part of our ball fell off, and then we played some more. It was only as the sun started sinking beneath the horizon that we walked back to the church for a bonfire, a meal, and a good night’s rest before the next day of the build.