Staying Put: the Neighbourhood

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My neighbourhood is another reason I wanted to stay put in this house. I live in what expats call a “Mexican neighbourhood.” I call it “economically diverse.” It’s a neighbourhood with a lot of homes that could be called shacks, but sitting next to beautiful upscale homes. There’s often trash on the poorly maintained streets and there aren’t really any high end establishments like cafés, sit-down restaurants, and cantinas. Mérida has much neater and newer neighbourhoods and developments that look like any suburb in Canada and the U.S., with wide streets, walkable sidewalks, underground utilities, all perfectly groomed and maintained, and with beautiful restaurants, bars, and cafés. But that’s the world I’ve always eschewed and not the Mexico I fell in love with. Those are all things I enjoy in moderation. They are a place to go to for a treat. But they lack what are for me the necessities of daily living — cheap taquerías and cocina economicas, a vibrant neighbourhood market, little mom and pop-type shops where you can get really good service, and, most important, a sense of community and security because people walk the streets and know their neighbours.

Across Calle 60, the main north-south boulevard, is an older but still more upscale neighbourhood called Campestre. I’d say that neighbourhood is the same age as mine, but it’s a world apart. While the streets of Chuburná de Hidalgo are usually bustling with people, Campestre’s are eerily silent. While Campestre’s homes and streets are more diversified and older than those in the new tract developments, they are much neater than those of Chuburná de Hidalgo. Campestre doesn’t as far as I far as I’ve seen in my explorations, have a single tortillería, cocina economica, or cheap taquería. It does boast some really good restaurants, bakeries, cafés, and all manner of more upscale stores. Its “downtown” is as equidistance from my house as Chuburná’s “downtown” is to me, with its cheap little restaurants, beautiful newly renovated market, and are completely redone supermarket. I live between two worlds and can go to either as easily.

Campestre is like an island between the two main north-south boulevards.

I looked at a house in Campestre on the day that I found this house. I’ve thought a lot about that house as it was the only real other contender. It was a much, much smaller home, but not significantly less expensive, overall. Every time I find myself in Campestre, I try to imagine what my life would have been like there. I’ve been looking for the house, as I didn’t save the address, just to see where it is exactly in relation to all the things I go to between Chuburná’s centro and the businesses I frequent along Prolongación Paseo de Montejo. Well, I found it. And boy is that a funny story.

A street in the more upscale neighbourhood of Campestre.

Looking north on my street, you can see several not-so-nice homes and the crumbling apartment block at the corner. This street is definitely cleaner than the next one over, which has a huge trash heap at each end.

I made a new friend through my bowling club and he happens to live right near me and have a dog. He came by a few days ago and his dog got along fine with Bonita, so my friend suggested I go visit them with her. We know from my last post how that turned out! Well, when I had visited that little house in Campestre, I was immediately put off that that there was an expat living right next door. Can you see where this is going? 😆 Yup, the little house I’d looked at is immediately adjacent to my new friend’s home and he’s the person who helped me put it on my don’t rent list! Too funny. The world is full of strange coincidences. At any rate, now, I have my answer and the closure I wanted. I would have been so poorly situated to the things I need to be happy in my everyday life here in Mexico and I likely would have never discovered my favourite Chuburná businesses. I would also very likely have had a much higher cost of living.

Chuburná is definitely a growing neighbourhood and I’m seeing new businesses pop up all the time. I think, just based on the renovation of the Super Akí up the street that it’s slowly being gentrified. Expats are starting to discover it. But it feels like home in a way that no other part of Mérida feels like that. We’re the north of centro neighbourhood with the best bus service and our literally labyrinthian streets might not be much fun to drive but they are a wonder to walk as there is a surprise around every corner. I’m really settled in — I’m recognised as being a local and I have so many favourite restaurants I’d miss if I moved (my favourite pizzeria alone was a major factor in wanting to stay put 😆). I really love it here!

Terrible News

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Four days ago, Robert, a woman I have called “Mom” for almost two decades, and the mother of my best friend, collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. She died in the wee hours of this morning.

The last few days have been difficult as there is only so much I can do remotely. This is a family that gives enormously of the very little it has to give. They are as much my family as anyone I’m blood related to. For the last several years, they have been the only “charity” I have supported — I don’t volunteer because I need to be working to have money to give to them. I don’t donate to “causes” because they need every spare penny I can give them. Thankfully, they have other friends like me who can do this. Somehow, we all manage to get the mortgage and the bills paid every month and keep food on their table.

So now, instead of “just” facing medical bills on top of their regular financial obligations, her carers, her daughter Bast and her granddaughter Lily, are left with medical bills, funeral expenses, and the loss of the only source of income they have had since Roberta’s husband died suddenly several years ago, sending this family into an unending spiral of poverty.

Mom, Bast, and Lily have been for me the very real faces of America’s war against the poor, women, aged, LGBTQ, and disabled — against its most vulnerable citizens. They are soldiers in this war who have walked that battlefield every single day as benefits got slashed and as they got more and more ill from lack of adequate medical care and huge amounts of stress.

These are not people who can be helped by telling them how to budget or how to make do with less or them being told to get a job. These are people who can only be helped by a strong support network that could shoulder some of the burden to help ensure that they have a roof over their heads in the months ahead, food on the table, and, perhaps most important, time to properly grieve for the formidable matriarch of the family. Roberta’s cremation alone is going to cost the family $1,800. No one should have to worry about this sort of expense when they have lost their mother and grandmother.

I’m financially tapped out and have no idea how I am going to provide any sort of meaningful financial help through this new crisis and the immense uncertainty that lies ahead. All I can do for them, and for millions of other Americans in inexcusable poverty, is to keep sharing their story, over and over again, even as it mostly falls on deaf ears. All I’m asking for is for you to keep sharing their story also, either this post link (http://www.raecrothers.ca/blog/terrible-news/) or the Fundrazr campaign link (https://fundrazr.com/roberta-s_house?ref=fb_97QTlc_ab_55O4ya). If you’re reading this on Twitter, retweet. If on Facebook, share. Hopefully a share will land this story into the feed of a philanthropic person looking for a cause — I see that happen every day for less worthy causes, so please allow me to live in hope of such a miracle happening for my family. And if you do feel moved to donate, please remember that this is crowdfunding, where little donations snowball. Just a few dollars means more than you realise when there are others giving the same.

I am doing this, continually pushing this story, because our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. These people, more than any others in my life, need to know they matter.