Apr 22, 2012

Juanacatlán – How Life Once Is - Day 3

Love implies anger.
The man who is angered by nothing cares about nothing.
Edward Abbey

Outside concrete sinks
What Part of ‘NO’ Don’t You Understand

Let me set the stage a little: under what I would call a veranda (covered patio) but they call corridor are a couple of outdoor sinks they use for washing anything from clothes to vegetables to hands, we all get to brush our hair and teeth. There is nothing hidden here, you don’t get to brush your teeth, shave your beards or look at your mug in the mirror in the anonymity of behind-closed-doors.


Everything is in the open for everyone to see. It is quite different and at first you are a little self-conscious but it quickly evaporates when you know everyone else does it. Today we get to participate in the adobe brick making process. First you mix clay with a special type of very thin and long pine needles. Once mixed, you slop the mud into rectangular forms, pack it down, smooth it out, and let dry for a couple of weeks (weather permitting), before using as house building blocks. The process is backbreaking but inexpensive and since most of the land here is clay, it usually happens where the house will be built and it is part of digging a flat area where the house will eventually stand. 

Washing jacket full of dust to help ease Mike's allergies.
Cleanest clothes I've ever seen.  Great way to wash.
Dancing in the mud, mixing the pine needles in - but I look so serious
To mix the pine needles (instead of straw) in the clay, they use horses or people and they call it ‘dancing’ in the clay. I danced the needles into the clay for a little while. Although it was quite warm, the clay was very cool and it felt good to be up to nearly my knees in mud speckled with needles.

Chayo and I making bricks
The mixed mud is then carried in wheelbarrows to a flat area where molds of specific dimensions are filled with the mud to then dry in the sun. Each adobe brick of the larger most common size weighs 25 pounds dried so probably 40 pounds wet. They need about 2 weeks to dry in good weather and are quite fragile until secured between mortar in walls. It took Chayo and I approximately 60 minutes to make 14 bricks. Each brick sells for 10 pesos (0.80 cents), about 250 bricks are made by two workers each day. Each worker gets about 200 pesos ($16) so the rest ($160/day) goes to the person owning the equipment and the clay… It is a very inexpensive and local process.

Should these folks try to purchase cement blocks to be delivered on the land, they couldn’t afford building homes. Adobe bricks are used in two different ways when building homes; either covered with stucco or left as-is but layered with a certain type of protective clear varnish so water doesn’t damage them. At the time of this writing, the person we visited had made over 12,000 brick YTD and had orders for another 5,000 before the start of the rainy season. At 10 pesos a brick minus cost or 8 pesos a brick it would amount to nearly $11,000 for 17,000 bricks, actually a good earning when you consider most Mexicans make an average of $485/month or $6,000/year for only working 4-5 months/year.

Bricks drying in the sun
Bricks further drying, sideways
We are then invited to the adobe making site’s owner (Juan – Chayo’s brother) for lunch pot-luck style. Everyone is bringing something to share. We get to taste fresh handmade mortar and pestle (metate) salsa ground on-site, BBQ steaks, mango-jicama-cucumber salad with lime and chili powder (which two years later is still our favorite refreshing type of salad), and Manzanita water. (We find out later they also make delicious Popsicles.) We finally get to see how the Manzanita berries get to be used in an absolutely delicious bitter-sweet refreshing lime-green drink. The land is surrounded with fruit trees and we are puzzled by the blooming apple trees also laden with apples ready to eat. Nowhere else have we seen ready to eat apples on trees with blooms. Nikki is surrounded by dogs and has to acclimate to them. It’s taking a while but she slowly comes around.

Manzanita juice popsicle
We drive home full to the brim and actually dread the upcoming dinner later on. We are learning to eat very slowly so we are offered fewer seconds. The hospitality is great but so is our waistline becoming… So much good food offered and hosts that cannot hear the word NO. We end up kidding about “What part of NO don’t you understand” when offered yet another morsel when we are already ready to burst.

Krystal just waking up - love the hairdo

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