Postcard from Mexico
June 29, 2010
In Guadalajara, I live with a woman named Elisa. She is 65 years old. When I’m not there, she lives alone.
A portrait of Jesus Christ hangs piously in her living room, depicting his heavenward gaze, proving His broken bond with Earth’s vicious mortality.
We are reminded of life’s impermanence, Elisa and I, when she reads me the headlines in the daily newspaper, a who’s who of mutilation and imprisonment. She reminds me that the battle remains in the “ugly” neighborhoods, and turns the page to show me smiling snapshots of body-painted soccer fans, celebrating Mexico’s win against France in the World Cup. Yes, this is much better reading.
Elisa asks me if I’m Catholic. I reply, no. She plops down beside me on the brown suede couch, holding a framed photograph of Pope John Paul II and beaming. She points out her son, one of many kneeling before his Holiness. Her son is a priest in Madrid. Her other son works for the newspaper.
Elisa teaches a catechism class at her church. To make money, Elisa works in sales – she sells caskets at a funeral home.
In her car, she has a bumper sticker printed with an image of the Virgin Mary that reads, “In case of accident, call a priest. I am Catholic.”
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One night, she turns the wrong way on a one-way street, cackling. “Oh, it was only for a little while,” she responds to my wide eyes and white knuckles, clenching the fabric of the car seat.
I ask about her husband. He lives in northern Mexico. They are still married “because of the Church,” of course. She does not wear a ring. She does not talk about him again.
While driving to school one morning, we pass one of the mothers of the children in Elisa’s catechism class. Elisa honks and waves from the window enthusiastically, telling me proudly, “Ella es licenciada,” meaning that the mother had attended a university and received a degree. Elisa tells me that her sons both speak perfect English, and the priest can speak five more languages. They are very intelligent, she tells me.
Elisa does not speak English. She points to herself and says, “Poca inteligencia.” I tell her, no, that’s not true. She replies, “I’m just good at other things.”