Patina is the value that age puts on an object.
John Yemma, Christian Science Monitor
My former landlord has had an ongoing frustration with one of his tenants, a Mexican woman. The landlord believes that people should behave “fairly,” which translated to his thinking means that someone shouldn’t start running several loads of laundry through the washing machine located just outside his kitchen window beginning at 8 in the evening. I might think that behavior inconsiderate and he believes lack of consideration is a form of unfairness. He posted some rules about the use of the washing machine, but the list was written in English; I know the Mexican woman speaks English, but I don’t know if she reads it; regardless, we are in Mexico and the rules should have been written using Spanish.
Another event in their untranslatable relationship is the woman’s vacuum cleaner, which she leaves outside the entrance to her apartment, which is directly opposite the landlord’s doorway. The stairwells from the two upstairs apartments also meet at this spot. The landlord thought her behavior unfair as he believes she should store the machine in the garage, about 20 steps away, where it would not detract from the appearance of the property (although the entire property is behind tall walls]. He didn’t tell her this: he said “she should know it.” He did not tell her to move the machine; he moved it several times: when she did not follow suit, he took to parking his motorcycle in front of her door so that it blocked everyone’s access to the laundry area as well as her ability to leave her apartment. I considered his act unfair.
I mentioned to him that – if she is unaware that her behavior and actions bother him – he should ask or tell her what he wants. He counters that she should know this as any “fair” person would and he gives – as examples of “fair” people – myself and his third tenant. We don’t do these things. I mentioned that makes no difference; our behavior has nothing to do with hers, and if he wants hers to change he should talk to her. She is a pleasant and not disagreeable person.
Both his dog and hers poop in the courtyard. He complains that she doesn’t clean up after dog, and when she does she leaves sweeps tree degree and the excrement into piles. So he took to leaving the scoop on top of the canvas cover of the washing machine.
Both the third tenant and I have moved out and the landlord now has two vacancies.
Recently four of us were at lunch and one of us had purchased a home that is within the historic district of San Miguel. This woman is an artist and color is important to her; however, she cannot paint her house just any color, as historic district buildings are limited to a palette of four colors.
She also wanted to paint her exterior door purple, which the city would not allow. She could have a dark blue door, which is supposed to ward away evil spirits.
She also wanted to modernize the surface of the door, to make it smoother if not smooth; the city told her they preferred the rough, weathered look of her door. Patina is preferred.
She painted the inside of her exterior door purple, saying that she “wasn’t going to let them win.” I didn’t see this as a matter of winning and losing … she and her husband purchased a house in a historic district that has zoning regulations; there are many places in San Miguel where they could have purchased and painted their house any color they desired. She loves the way Guanajuato looks, with its varied house colors. This, however, is San Miguel. Like Williamsburg, Virginia and Santa Fe, New Mexico and other places that value their places in history, San Miguel is dependent on tourist incomes and tourists come here because the city has an aesthetic. I would think she, as an artist, would appreciate that.
American naivete as reflected in song
A number of American popular songs reflect a lack of awareness about life in Mexico. In these songs, men can escape (from the law or women or other troubles) and enjoy plenty of cheap beer – as if Mexico wanted America’s penniless criminals. One just needs to lay in a hammock by the ocean or the Gulf or the Carribbean. One just needs to cross the border and one’s troubles forever stay behind. Of course there is a beautiful senorita who will attend to your wishes. The songs for the next few posts reflect that attitude.